A Programmer’s Guide to Writing Your Heart Out

Nikita Lazarev-Zubov
Jan 14 · 7 min read

I write a lot. I love doing it because it makes me feel smarter — likely a bit smarter than I actually am. However, it’s not the only benefit from the process and its result, although rather considerable one. So, why do we write? Why oftentimes we don’t want to write? And why the heck don’t we do it even when we feel a desire to?

Why do we write?

Aside from pure egotism, we all want other people (friends, colleagues, competitors) to appreciate our achievements. Sometimes to make people jealous, or to impress them with our keenness, or to ask them to share in our happiness over discovering a graceful new way to solve a complex problem.

Are you a great programmer? Does anyone else know that? Of course, the whole planet doesn’t have to. But at least, does your team lead know, or your colleagues? People should, and are even required to, know their heroes! And it’s your responsibility to give them a chance to know you better. Starting with your direct chief, who is probably under the illusion that your professional level has remained unchanged since your interview. Was this a reason you weren’t promoted after the last performance review? Not to mention recruiters (if you’re looking for job prospects). How are they supposed to know your talents and experience if you don’t find a way to share them with the world?

Why oftentimes we don’t want to write?

I think, most often, people don’t think they need it. Probably, they are an accomplished specialist, working in a good company. They can boast a number of acknowledged merits (which are expressed in real work results, not in writing posts). Indeed, it’s hard to find a reason to write for such people. Especially, if they don’t tend to share. Nevertheless, it is worthwhile.

So, what is the point?

As I mentioned, writing about achievements is useful, not only for the author, but for the whole community. The programming area has countless problems. Moreover, while programmed systems become more and more complex, the number of problems increases. Programming is not about searching the right solution, but the optimal one. Found a better one? — Share it! The community would be grateful, test it in the field and report the results. Perhaps, they’ll even propose possible optimizations. That is the benefit of team research. And it doesn’t happen without those willing to write down their achievements. The community is always ready to offer a hand: to think about optimizations, to point out pitfalls, to share observations and results of someone else’s research on the topic. In either case, you can’t lose. After publishing you’ll inevitably find yourself one step higher.

This leads into what I believe is the main bonus of writing posts. Fear of looking incompetent, or fear of being ridiculed will force you to work on the topic more deeply than would be sufficient for a local case. You’ll find out that this particular aspect is just a tip of the iceberg. And preparation of the post will help you to discern this iceberg in all its glory. You’ll want to check whether the solution really works. If that’s not a particular case. If not, do they exist? How does your approach show itself compared to others, more well-known, ones?

Why don’t we write even when we want to?

Perhaps, this question is the most difficult, with countless possible answers. Starting from a general lack of time to more crippling reasons like a fear of the limelight. Although discussing time management here is superfluous, some other obstacles are worth mentioning.

“I know these readers”

Another reason that prevents us from writing (but that we aren’t likely to discuss) is the prospect of showing it to readers who take it as a point of pride to find any inaccuracies in your post and leave your postulates in tatters.

Indeed, this can easily be avoided. For instance, you can publish away from places where such behavior is common. As for me, I chose Medium as a platform for my content. As a bonus, it has plenty of specialized professional blogs which would be happy to have you as one of their authors. In return, it will give you more views and new followers.

Another good place for your posts is on your company’s technical blog. Your will have your colleagues’ gratitude and become the darling of your article-starved marketing department. Your colleagues will become your first readers. So, if your post could be better, you’ll know it at once, from a supportive environment, intent on your success. If your company doesn’t have its own blog, discuss it with the right people. As a result, you’ll increase your significance in the community and at your company in particular.

If you still want to publish posts on the kind of internet resources where there is a chance to be caught in a storm of unwanted feedback, I have good news: if the stuff is qualitative, positive feedback will counteract unconstructive criticism. Moreover, any engagement plays into your hands: it attracts more and more followers. Be brave, a good read always finds readers! And remember that the bigger the site is, the more unpleasant people potentially found there, but at the same time, the more followers you get!

“I have nothing to write”

Another reason to avoid writing might be a lack of experience. Hence, the fear of saying something wrong. All industries have novices and experts with countless grades between them. At every stage there are those looking to learn more to grow as a specialist. For that, they need to read. And not just any reading, but appropriate to their skill level. There are a huge amount of people who are less experienced than you. And your, let’s say, minimal experience fits them better than the smarty-pants posts by more tempered colleagues who leave numerous details aside because these details are self-evident to them.

It is worth mentioning a peculiarity of articles for beginners. Usually, such articles are simplified to an appropriate level. However, some experienced people don’t understand this trait and love to accuse authors of teaching bad practices. You know, it’s like parents who forgot that they were once children, too. A prime example of this are simple Apple tutorials for iOS development beginners. Any programmer worth his salt in iOS development reiterates at every turn that Apple teaches poor practices leading to ugly and untestable code.

OK, but what is there to write about?

If you’re an experienced engineer, it’s simple. Your everyday activities give you a lot of interesting topics to explore: you struggle with platform limitations, combine incompatible things, invent ways of working around the flaws in third-party components etc. All of this will be undoubtedly interesting to your colleagues who haven’t come across those problems, or actually have, but are looking for alternative solutions.

Although your job might seem uninteresting to you, a daily routine, that is not the case for the outside world. A considerable part of an engineer’s job is research and constant self-development. What is well-trodden for you, might be a discovery for others. In other words, if anything in your work that seems obvious to you, it’s just because you are confronting it every day.

But not only well-experienced experts have something to write about! Almost any pieces of information of different levels are popular among internet users. So, what to write about if you’re a novice? Chances are that you’re learning a lot at this moment. And there are plenty of questions being raised in your mind. Having read an article, you may be looking for another one on the same topic to find out missed details. This tends to be accomplished through well-done research. That means you’ll have learned the subject of interest and be ready to write about it.

My spouse, with a little bit of my personal support, wrote her first feature-length post on an engineering subject while having zero experience. She was learning a topic and had realized that it needed an article written in human terms that just didn’t exist. Isn’t that a reason to fix the problem and write her own post?

When you don’t need to write, or Conclusion

If you read through this post there was no tingle of inspiration (even a little bit), maybe you don’t have to torture yourself by writing on your own. You can make the world better in plenty of ways. You can be a talented coach who appears on workshops every week. You can be a mentor for a number interns. Or you can be a speaker who visits conferences and spreads the word. The punchline being: don’t confine yourself to simple tasks! Share knowledge, communicate, evolve and help the industry to get better!

Nikita Lazarev-Zubov

Written by

Software (iOS) Development Engineer @ Dream Broker, Helsinki, Finland

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade