The ability to communicate clearly is important for any developer at all career stages, especially as you grow into more senior roles. Learning how to write well really helps with this, especially in a remote work world. Here’s why it’s worth investing in learning how to write and simple tactics to get over the most common hurdles.
Software developers solve interesting problems every day. Yet, only a fraction of devs write about the things they learn through problem-solving, so a lot of interesting insights stay locked in people’s heads.
After writing with 100+ software developers as a supporting editor through OfferZen Source, I’ve noticed three barriers come up again and again:
- The ROI of learning how to write well isn’t clear to everyone.
- Writing publicly is hard and scary.
- It’s hard to stay accountable when writing alone.
Let’s address these one by one.
Why developers should write
As a software developer, you already do a lot to make sure your skills stay up to date with fast-moving tech trends. Why add another, quite time-intensive activity like writing?
Here’s what developers from the community seem to be taking from learning how to write well:
- Deepening learning: Explaining concepts and decision-making processes solidifies your understanding of them and makes it more likely that you won’t forget your learnings.
- Connections: Sharing personal experiences and thinking often leads to conversations with peers, colleagues and friends that had never come up before.
- Building a portfolio: Sharing your thinking and approaches helps you stand out among other developers in the job search.
- Improving skills: Clear writing requires clear communication. Clear communication skills help you to be better at writing clean code, presenting ideas to colleagues, and preparing you for the requirements of more senior roles.
Guide Fari, a front-end engineer at Flexperto, wrote a great article on how writing has helped him in his developer career.
“Quincy Larson tweeted “Build your skills. Build your reputation. Build your network. Your career success depends on all three of these.” Writing in public spaces contributes to all three!”
Tactics to make writing less hard and scary
Where does one even start? What does one write about? Will it be interesting and useful to anyone, or will I embarrass myself? Why is it so hard, and why does it take so long?
These are things that professional writers struggle with - it’s only logical that others will have a hard time as well.
Four things I’ve found work well for a lot of devs across the board to get through this initial blockage are:
- Write about a problem you’ve just solved: It’s on the top of your mind and you’ve thought a lot about it. The other thing to consider is that if you’ve had to think hard about something, it’s very likely another developer has as well.
- Write what you’d have liked to have read to help you get through the problem easier.
- Break up the writing process into digestible chunks: You can do this by creating a clear problem statement, roughly outlining your thinking, and filling in all the relevant information, and only then should you focus on making it easy to read.
- Test the draft against someone whose opinion you trust: Once you’ve peer-tested the piece in a “safe space”, it feels a lot less scary to send it out in the world.
Staying accountable throughout the writing process
Even if you ace the above, it can still be quite hard to:
- Make time to write regularly.
- Push through lack of energy/motivation/creativity or limiting self-beliefs.
- Actually hit publish when you have written something.
One thing I’ve found works well for a lot of devs across the board to keep momentum is, in short, not doing it alone: Ask someone for help to workshop a piece with you.
At OfferZen Source, our editors often work through the initial thinking, structure mapping and even figuring out entire paragraphs together with a contributor if they feel stuck. But even if you don’t have an editor to work with, a lot of people are super keen to help.
In my experience, this helps in a few ways:
- If you’ve asked someone for their time to help and they’ve agreed, it’s harder not to show up – for both of you.
- Setting up a session with a person you trust and whose insights you appreciate. Workshopping together is a lot less daunting than doing something hard alone.
- There’s something about thinking or explaining a thing out loud to another human that unblocks a lot of the “I don’t know how to write” worry.
- The other person could even just write things down as you speak, and then you can edit it to be more focused after. Editing is always easier than creating from scratch.
Learning to write as a developer can deepen your learning, build connections, improve your skills and ultimately help you stand out. Overcoming the challenges of writing benefits not only you but can also benefit the development community as a whole by unlocking valuable knowledge and insights.
If you want to try writing but still don’t know where to start, sign up to OfferZen Source. It’s a free editorial service that gets you:
- Step-by-step guidance through the writing process
- An accountability partner
- Custom-made designs for the article
- A blog post on the OfferZen blog that you can republish on your own pages
- How Writing Boosts My Developer Career
- 4 Tips For Communicating Technical Ideas to a Non-tech Audience
- Mapping Out Your Dev Skills