Writing Is Thinking: How To Beat Technical Writer’s Block

Many developers want to write technical blog posts, but they struggle with writer’s block. Last year, I gave a talk on technical writer's block at WordCamp US in St. Louis. The most important takeaway for developers who want to write more is the idea that writing is really a thinking exercise.

This is often not what we're considering when we think of technical writer's block. We think writer’s block is a lack of inspiration. We think that if we didn't have such a difficult time finding ideas, writing would be easier.

But really, writing is a medium for sharing what we're thinking with others. And that's where a lot of our struggle with writing comes from. 

Your idea may feel clear in your head, but you find it a struggle to put into words. This is usually a sign that the idea isn’t as clear as you thought. This illusion of clarity causes a lot of our frustration. We're so sure that we know what we want to say that we can't imagine that it might be the root of the issue. During my talk, I mentioned that writing daily helps with beating technical writer’s block. You have to get used to this uncomfortable feeling; that feeling that you know something, but, at the same time, you don't know it well enough to put it into words. Writing daily forces you to dig deeper and learn more.

Writing slowly is another way to help with writer's block. Often, you have the best insight when you're not in writing mode. So, by taking your time and writing slowly, you give yourself the time to think about what you're communicating and you increase the opportunities for those insights.

Whether you suffer from writer's block or not, this idea that "writing is thinking" is important. Most of us don't work alone; we work on or lead a team. We have clients and customers that we interact with. A lot of these interactions happen through writing, whether through good ol' fashioned email or Slack. So, it's important to be able to write. You don't have to share your knowledge with your peers but you definitely want them to understand what you're thinking.

You can read more about beating technical writer’s block and my whole writing process in the companion article for my talk.

Carl’s presentation at WordCamp US was sponsored by the Pantheon Heroes program. If you love Pantheon and you love giving back to the WordPress or Drupal communities, become a Hero today


Topics Content