I recently wrote about how I teach, in response to a T-SQL Tuesday post from 2010. This is a continuation of that theme, suggested by my own editor. Thanks, Pete.
“Tricks to get your mojo on.” Describing your rituals and tricks to get you into a writing frame of mind, or a developing frame of mind. Music? Without lyrics? Coffee? Cleaning your work area in advance? “The rite of writing right.”
Writing comes to me easily. I’ve been writing since I learned how to draw letters, and I can type1On a regular keyboard I type mostly with three or four fingers: my index finger on my left hand, my thumb, index finger and sometimes the middle finger on my right hand. On a mobile device I type with my left thumb and either the right index finger or thumb because of how I hold it, and a long-standing issue with my hands. The speed is about the same: 65 words per minute at full speed, 98% accuracy, and a full blog post in around an hour. over a thousand words an hour. I can type while sitting on my couch, pacing around the house, or sitting at the kitchen counter (where most of the content for the SQL Server books happened). I don’t listen to music nor have the TV on because it’s distracting when I hear words.
Even after writing more than 250 posts averaging over 700 words per week in the last five years, I usually have an idea of what I want to write before I begin. These ideas come from Twitter, from my own research, responding to someone else’s blog post, something that happened to a client, or simply an announcement for an upcoming community event. In some cases, the post will end very differently to how I envisioned it, especially if I have to do original research. For example, in the series about how data is persisted to the storage layer, that came about because I was mistaken in my assumption about GUIDs, so there was a lot of content that came from that.
Other times I might have an idea that is just too long for a single post. On the other hand, I may have several ideas and that means I will write several posts in advance. It really depends on my mood. If you see a really short post from me (under 300 words), you can probably guess that it was not a good week for writing. Which — yes — means I do suffer occasionally from writer’s block. When this happens, I look to inspiration from other people. Kenneth Fisher (blog | Twitter) has a page of blogging ideas which is the first place I look. That’s not to say I always write about his ideas: in most cases they’ll get my mind going about related topics and I’ll write about one of those instead. That is entirely the point of inspiration after all.
Recently I noticed that our community has celebrated more than 100 T-SQL Tuesdays, so I’ve taken to using that series as inspiration. If I can’t think of anything to write about for the current week, I’ll just look at the next invitation in that list and write about that topic.
My posts are scheduled weekly, for 8am Calgary time on Wednesday mornings. I have a reminder set on Friday evening to write the post for the following Wednesday, with a soft deadline of Sunday evening because my editor wants to have time on Monday and Tuesday to look it over before it’s published.
Moving to Wednesdays meant I no longer participate in T-SQL Tuesday, but I have made up for that as noted previously.
Sticking to a regular schedule makes it easier for me to plan posts. When I travelled, I would schedule posts to go out while I was away. In some cases, it was stressful because I’d have to write six or seven in advance, but planning to do two a week for six weeks was a lot easier than writing all six in one week.
If you’re going to produce content for public consumption, you need an editor. You need someone else to review your content for spelling (the biggest thing), grammar, and ambiguity. While my writing doesn’t need as many changes compared to other folk, that doesn’t mean I’m exempt from needing this, and I make common mistakes too.
I have been fortunate with both of my editors over the last few years that they don’t know SQL Server like I do. That means I am forced to write for them. Like every creative person I push back against changing my “art,” but in the vast majority of cases the editor will win the argument. You wouldn’t believe the time we’ve spent discussing commas.
Over to you
If you’re wanting to get into blogging — even if it’s to practise writing — I’d encourage you to participate in T-SQL Tuesday. Every month a host will propose a topic and you’ll just have to make sure your post is scheduled to appear on the right date to be included in the wrap-up. This generates visibility of your blog and as a pleasant side-effect it drives traffic your way. You could even host one (which I haven’t done yet), which encourages you to write at least two posts (the invitation and the wrap-up) and would definitely drive traffic to your blog.
So now you know how the magic happens, and you’re probably disappointed that there’s no magic, just forty years of writing every day. I don’t even have a private office to work in on Sunday mornings, and my blog editor is a web browser on my laptop or a mobile phone.
Share your writing tips in the comments below.