The A List Apart Blog Presents:

Writing to Think

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At a conference I attended several years ago, one of the speakers talked about needing to hire someone to step in and substitute for another designer who had fallen quite ill. The speaker found his new designer from reading their blog. Because that designer wrote and shared his thoughts on the web, he got a job.

I went home from that conference and started writing. I started a blog with a basic WordPress theme that I got for free. I shared my thoughts and ideas. I can say, without a doubt, writing has led to many wonderful things.

It was through writing that I connected virtually with many of the people in the industry that I’ve gone on to meet in-person at conferences. It all started by taking notes at a Mobile Portland meeting and publishing them on my site. I continued to think more about mobile and shared my thoughts on my blog. Those posts were the beginning for me, they were how I realized that I had a voice, that my thoughts mattered, and that sharing them was a way to start a conversation with others who were thinking about the same topics.

Through writing, I solidified my ideas on style guides. When I went to write up a rough post for the company blog about how I created the style guide we were using, it pushed me to think about how I define these tools. That rough post never ended up on the company blog, but it did get published as an A List Apart article. As I worked with an editor to shape that piece, my thoughts on style guides morphed and changed until I knew what I wanted to say about them.

The publication of that article led to speaking about style guides at conferences, giving me some amazing (and nerve wracking) opportunities to talk about them more.

As I’ve continued to write, on my own site and others, it’s led to more opportunities. I believe it was through my writing that I got to work with an amazing team, at an amazing startup that is no longer. As I wrote quick pieces on my site, some of them grew and went on to become more somewhere else, such as my article on CSS audits here on A List Apart.

It can be hard and intimidating to put yourself out there, but you should write. You should take the ideas that you get, and see what happens with them. Submit to publications you think may be interested in your topic (hint, hint) and see what they think. Writing can lead to more than you can imagine.

Often, the pieces I have the most doubts about turn out to be the words that people read and relate to most. So in those moments where you wonder if you should share something, I say do it, publish it. Treat your blog like your drafts folder. When I’ve done that, great things have happened.

About the Author

Susan Robertson

Susan Robertson is a front end developer working with Fictive Kin who focuses on CSS, style guides, responsive, and accessibility. In the past, she has worked with clients such as FiftyThree, Imprint, Cloud Four, and worked for Editorially, The Nerdery, and Cambia Health. When not actually writing code, she can be found writing about a wide variety of topics on her own site as well as contributing to A List Apart and The Pastry Box. When not staring at a screen, she reads comics and novels, cooks lots of yummy food, and enjoys her Portland neighborhood.

16 Reader Comments

  1. Writing was something I often had a hard time with simply because I was afraid of what others might say, whether they agreed with me or not. The internet can be a very harsh place to voice your opinion but as you write more you start to realize that everything is going to be okay. Even if someone disagrees or criticizes you, it isn’t the end of the world. It is really the only way to grow.

  2. Thank you for this timely reminder, Susan. I love this. (I also think I know who that speaker you saw may have been.) Your story illustrates something I’m always telling other designers and my students: writing clarifies and advances your thinking, takes your design abilities to the next level, boosts your confidence and clarity when sharing your work, improves your career, and introduces you to a world of friendly and fascinating peers.

  3. Hi Susan,

    I really found this blog post inspiring! I’ve been teaching myself how to code for the past three months, looking for a career change and I’ve been thinking about blogging my learning experience and my thoughts but I lacked of confidence, this kind of post really push me forward and encourage me to pursuit my goals even harder!


    – Julian

  4. Susan,

    I used to write years and years ago but stopped, and now I’m having trouble getting started again. I think part of it is falling into the comparison trap – there’s so much information on the internet already. Even if I can identify a topic I feel confident enough to write about, it’s likely other people have already written 10 articles about it, and they’ve written them better than I could! Do you have any advice to that? Thanks for the article and getting me to think about this!


  5. Thank you so much Ryan and Julian, good to hear you are writing!

    @Kim: I’ve struggled with this a lot as well, feeling like the things I want to talk about other people are already doing a great job at, but here’s a thing to realize, you are unique and have a different point of view than most people. An example of this is my style guides article that I wrote for ALA, there was already a book on this by Anna Debenham, Brad Frost was talking Atomic Design, etc. I wrote about my experience anyway, and from there was encouraged to broaden it out.

    So my advice is the same, write. Just because a topic has been written about doesn’t mean that what you have to say won’t strike someone differently or be unique. It is the wide variety of voices that I think adds to the discussion and makes it even more interesting for people trying to learn about it.

  6. After reading the name of the article “Writing to Think”, I stopped and thought for a minute about it. I asked myself what it means to me. Writing helps me to clear my thoughts. Sometimes, I write and get lost. But I just step aside and ask myself: “what am I trying to say?” Sometimes it makes sense, sometimes it doesn’t:)
    William Zinsser in his book “On writing well” said “Clear thinking becomes clear writing; one can’t exist without the other.”
    Thank you, Susan for making me think!

  7. A blog cannot survive for long without quality content. If you post quality content on your blog, you’ll see quality backlinks generation on autopilot. Other than that, guest posting is also very important to get back links and readers. I enjoyed reading this post. Well written. 🙂

  8. Hey i’m also content marketing strategist & i understand what is the procedure of producing a good content. First you have to prepare for brainstorming.

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