Seriously, do it. Start blogging about what you’re working on, or something you find interesting.
I’ll give you my perspective: I’m an in-house developer for a manufacturer. Most of the things I work on aren’t public-facing, so I can’t show them off to others. None of the code I write for my job is open source or otherwise available to the public. This is troublesome if I want to expand my opportunities as a developer.
With all that in mind, I can certainly describe what I’m working on in general terms. I can also create some made-up examples for the purposes of demonstration and write about those.
Alright, but why?
First and foremost, it’s a great test to make sure that you really understand something. If you know it well enough to write about it and explain it, then you probably know it well enough to implement it.
Further, if you don’t know it that well, then you should immediately start writing about it. Writing is a way to make your thinking more concrete by forcing you to think through the issue at hand. The process of asking yourself a question, hunting down the answer, and writing about it will produce exactly the results you want. For instance, how often have we all started writing out a question only to have the answer spontaneously occur to us midway through?
I mentioned earlier that having the overwhelming bulk of my work be proprietary is troublesome if I want to expand my opportunities. Honestly, the best way to mitigate this would be to crank out some side projects and maybe do some open source work. However, there are reasons that those options aren’t necessarily feasible.
But an article about something you’re already working on isn’t that much extra demand on your time. In my case, it becomes a useful record of my work. That’s no small benefit!
Pretty often, as I write, other thoughts occur to me for further explanation. Additionally, I’m often wondering what kinds of things I might be able to talk about. This is very valuable when I’m seeing mostly the same kinds of problems, day over day, at my job because it pushes me to look further and come up with things to write about.
Isn’t Everyone Writing Blogs Though?
Probably, yeah. At least, it seems that way. There are many people working on articles every day, and some of them are likely covering what you’d like to cover as well. This really isn’t a big deal, though.
To draw an example from something else in my background – as a musician, I’m certainly not going to stop working on songs simply because someone else has written a song about the same theme. Further, it’s commonplace to learn the songs of others for various reasons.
I think the same can be said of writing. Maybe everyone is covering the same thing, but that’s fine! They won’t be covering it in exactly the same way that you are. Further, if you’re writing some kind of persuasive piece and you happen to agree with others, then you’ve helped strengthen the argument in some small way, potentially.
All else being equal, the fastest way to outcompete someone else is to be able to communicate better than they can.
That’s a pretty broad generalization and it doesn’t necessarily hold for all things. But it definitely holds in a situation where being able to record an idea and successfully get the point across to someone else is part and parcel of your job. If you don’t think this is the case, then I’ll ask you: have you written an email lately?
I really wish that I’d started writing about my development work when I was still in college. It didn’t occur to me at the time, unfortunately. When it finally did occur to me, I kept wondering why I ought to bother when everyone else has beaten me to the punch on so many useful articles.
The most surprising thing was when I began to consult some of my own writing, published or private, to get some insight into something that I was working on because I just knew I had done something similar in the past. It shouldn’t have been as surprising as it was because I essentially just rediscovered the power of documentation all on my own. As soon as that happened, it solidified the value of what I was doing. If nobody else would ever find it valuable, at least I can save myself some time in the future!