I’ve been super-frustrated with my blogging for years because I feel there is a lot of friction between tools I use for my thinking processes and the publishing platforms where I post them. The friction largely is keeping track of everything so I can find them later, then remembering what to do next. I have been trying to think of how to fix my blog for many years, and realized today that bootstrapping the new system from the current WordPress site could actually work. To make it more exciting for me, I’m going to use my personal challenge blogging format from a few years ago; the Thing-a-Day 2014 challenge was exhausting but very satisfying.
So what is the Think-Write-Publish System Challenge? It’s my desire to have an integrated idea-to-production system that works the way I think and make. In general, all my thinking starts with a lot of writing. Even my visual design work starts with an essay!
There are four main groups of writing content that I work with every day. Also, I should note that each of these stages may also include digital photos, illustrations, diagrams, tables of content, references, physical models that support the writing.
- The raw thinking and process logs I write in a lot of places as I’m thinking. Some good thoughts are in chat rooms like my virtual coworking chat room where I’m having interesting discussions with people. Some of them are in my project thinking logs, where I write stream-of-consciousness style in a dated entry format so I can remember what I was doing. There are easily a dozen active sites that I switch between with the help of a custom Alfred workflow, and hundreds more in my digital archives.
- The distilled thought nuggets. A habit I’ve been nurturing this year is compressing/distilling my raw thinking into something more portable. I don’t like rereading even my own writing, so if I make it short and to-the-point this often helps me start projects faster. This group includes documentation I’m writing for billable projects as well as leaving “how-to” documents in digital project archives. These save a tremendous amount of time.
- Tangible results. In my definition of productivity, what matters is showing something that others can experience for themselves. Ideas are great, but implementation is everything in my book. A huge challenge is to keep track of all the different parts, which often requires all kinds of software and physical storage space. In terms of this project, the focus is on cataloging results and related writing so I remember how it works.
- Packaged results and publication. This is taking what I’ve done in the previous steps and making it accessible to others. This is in the form of blog posts, documentation, emails to collaborators, social media, etc.
It’s that last stage that I find the most challenging AND the most rewarding. While I have always the strong desire to share what I’ve learned with others because DANG IT learning is hard and I want to save people some time, this kind of production work is really time consuming. And since I’m working solo, it’s not particularly fun to slough long hours in the dark wondering if what I’m making will matter to anyone at all.
Can an integrated idea-to-production system, as I am imagining it, make it more fun AND deliver higher quality results? One of the takeaways from 2019’s Groundhog Day Resolutions Review was (again) that I really want to be in a tribe of competent self-empowering like-minded nice people to become my bestest and most productive self. While I’ve made oodles of progress in my personal development, I have not made as much progress in creating the nurturing environment where such a tribe can find sanctuary and thrive. That means a commitment to leadership, and I think the form of leadership that comes most naturally to me is to show don’t tell through my work.
That is the idea. I don’t know where it will go, but there are a few ground rules that I’ll apply to start.
It’s ok for me to update and improve my blog posts in this series. Usually I don’t make edits unless there is a big typo somewhere, because I want to “capture” my thinking at a particular point in time even if it seems silly later. However, I have just inserted some code into my WordPress theme (Dante by SwiftIdeas, if anyone was wondering) that will print last updated under the post title. I will allow myself to do big edits if that improves the clarity of what I’m doing.
I don’t have to make this a Daily Challenge, but I can use this series to capture any relevant work. In my past challenges, I would make a new thing every day and then publish it. I learned what my capabilities were through this process, and it was super fulfilling but also VERY TIME CONSUMING. I can’t afford to do this while maintaining disciplined focus on software development this year. However, since I am now allowing myself to edit the blog posts, I can go back and add good stuff to old posts. I think the result will be better for readers who come in later in the process.
This will be a transparent process. I like to share the behind-the-scenes half-baked ideas that I’m implementing; if you’ve followed me for any length of time, you know that I like to “experiment my way past uncertainty” to get data.
That last point is SUPER IMPORTANT to me. Nathan Pyle’s Strange Planet captures the sentiment quite nicely. One of the operating criteria for the ThinkWritePublish system is that it support open science principles; while my MATERIAL goal is to have finished works that are readily usable by readers, my MISSION goal is to create nurturing community through sharing experience in an accessible and relatable way. This is where I will make an exception to “improving blog posts”…I will not erase failures or fruitless tangents from the record, because they are part of the process. So much media these days leaves that out, which distorts our understanding of how the universe really works to get the sausage made.
YEAH, CHALLENGE! I’ve created a ThinkPub 2020 Challenge Page to capture all relevant work.
About this Article Series
I'm challenging myself to create a set of personal publishing and thinking tools starting April 2020. The current goal is to have a turnkey system has less friction than my current process AND can be easily shared with collaborators.
I'll be collecting all the related work on the ThinkWritePublish Challenge Page, so check that out if you want to know more!