“Sidedish” Writing

Technology goes hand in hand with content.  Lots of content.  And that content has to be written, and I’ve got to write it – at least some of it.  So where can I find inspiration? 

I would suggest that rather than looking to outside sources for topics, I start with myself – my “sidedish” writing.  That would be all the writing I do incidentally – updates to social media websites, e-mails to colleagues in the relevant field, chats with geeky friends.  I use the term “sidedish” because I think of it as analogous to the sidedish you eat along with your lunch – you didn’t go there to eat it but you do because you’re there.  Tidbits from these casual conversations can be channeled into “main dish” writing , which I would characterize as whatever you’ve committed yourself to write on a regular basis that you hope will impress someone else.

Accordingly, a favor I can do for myself is to increase the quality and quantity of my sidedish writing.  Here are some suggestions on how to do that:

find sites that encourage frequent updates:  I find that Twitter is useful in this regard for the simple reason that it generates a log of all the updates I’ve made.  Since I’m on Twitter, I can go back to that clever update I posted two weeks ago and use it to seed a post.  Any site would work that encouraged me to return to it frequently and write quick notes about what’s on my mind.

make friends with people who like to geek out: I want to write about technology, so I seek out friends who enjoy talking about technology.  Not only are they great resources for answering questions, they bring out my geeky side, and I generate higher quality content when I’m communicating with them.

take advantage of any passionate interest:  When I am passionately interested in something, regardless of whether it is related to my main topic, I research it and write about it.  Writing will come more easily to me if I do it more often.  If I’m already in the habit of following up on my passionate interest, I will be more likely to do the same when I am writing about my main topic and less likely to keep going with something that’s actually boring me.

tag content – email conversations, chats, etc: If I properly archive my materials, it will make finding relevant clips of content that much easier to find.  Gmail allows tagging of email conversations rather than placing them in folders.  I provide myself with an index to my own thoughts so I can draw on them when I need them.

Improving the quality of these incidental conversations is valuable in and of itself.  Properly archived, they will be a source of self-generated leads.  When I am looking for a seed for my serious writing, that can turn my “sidedish” into a satisfying main “meal.”

It’s the Content, Silly!

So what if you are such a newbie that you confuse an apple store where you can buy Golden Delicious and an Apple store where you can get a Mac?  Whether or not you know the specs or even the name for that particular brand of computers, it is my theory that you understand more about what a Mac is for than you realize.  As a newbie, you are highly aware of your real-world needs – like the need to buy an actual apple to eat.  The computer is a tool that may get you the apple more efficiently than you could on your own.  It could suggest places nearby that have them, tell you what’s in season, or even provide you with a place online to trade the money necessary to have someone send you an apple.  However, you as a newbie know that the point was always the apple for eating, not the Apple computer.

As someone actively pursuing geekdom, I have found it refreshing to speak with people who consider themselves newbies because of this very reason.  The newbie isn’t wowed with how many widgets the software has, whether a device can crunch so many gigs of data, or, dare I say it, how nicely does it fit inside a manila envelope.  While usability is important, relevance is key.  Newbies want it to SOLVE THE PROBLEM.  The technology has to answer the question how do I get my Golden Delicious apple.