Workshop: Leadership Through Visibility

I love writing. It’s not very evident from the lack of posting on this particular blog, but I write a lot, mostly by hand and mostly in a giant journal that is designed to look like the Handbook for the Recently Deceased from Beetlejuice (hey I got it in a game of white elephant a few years ago, the gift that keeps on giving).

For some reason, when it comes to writing about my work or even things tangentially related to work for this blog, I feel blocked. Or I have ideas that are so grandiose, they feel impossible to grasp when I sit down and stare at the blinking cursor. Any sentences I manage to eke out just don’t feel up to the task of truly expressing the totality of my thoughts on a subject. Because, of course, a short blog post is the best place to write about my life story through the lens of social media and late stage capitalism. Why don’t I just write about flexbox bugs like everyone and be done with it, for fuck’s sake.

This mental tug-o-war is exactly why I wanted to attend a writing workshop called Leadership Though Visibility at the Lead Dev Conference with Sara Wachter-Boettcher and Katel Ledû. I wanted someone to sit me down for seven hours and force me to write about work stuff. I was nervous going in; that’s a long time to be trapped in a small room with people if the workshop is not very good.

Let me just say this: those hours were the most productive and inspiring I’ve had in a long time. We worked our way through the ideation process, step by step, and I came out the other side with a repeatable process for brainstorming, distilling and focusing ideas. When I went in I really had nothing in particular I even wanted to write about. I came out with a book idea that I felt fired up to work on.

I think a lot of what trips me up when trying to write about work is this feeling that I’m not really adding anything new to the discussion: “it has all been done before” and “other people are smarter and know more than me” are frequent thoughts when trying to run through blog post ideas. They really cut past all that by showing us how honoring and using our unique perspectives and values can feed and inform ideas in ways I had never really thought of before. We made interesting connections between lived experience, potential topics, beliefs and expertise that led me to fresh ideas that are way more interesting to me then Just Another CSS Tutorial.

Handwritten notes on workshop handouts
Some of my many pages of worksheet notes

Okay, it’s been two months, so did I actually work on it? Well, I did, for a few hours. Turns out it takes more than a few hours to write a book. I’ll be honest and say I had a family emergency that put my entire life on hold for a few weeks, and then went right into the holidays, so not much of anything productive happened for a while. However, like I said above, I have a process for working now that I can sit down and repeat, rather than just a fleeting sense of inspiration.

I also realized I should probably test out some of my ideas here, rather then spending months writing something in the dark and then pop up with a completed manuscript no one wants to read. It’s one thing to scribble passing thoughts about the world in a journal, and quite another to research and write a coherent blog post or book chapter that communicates an idea and tells a few good jokes. Because let’s be honest, most of the reason I like to write is that I make myself laugh while writing.

That is probably why I have so much trouble writing in this blog. Because my Grandiose World Changing ideas (and also flexbox bugs) are BORING AS FUCK to write and even more boring to read. Many of my old posts in this blog, which I have hidden from you, have a ton of humor in them and are entertaining to read, but also contain a ton of cringe-worthy snark from my own insecurities, so I had to nix that from the internet.

So. Onwards with this blog: to write words which are both fun to write and fun to read! Possibly that also have a point. I can’t make any guarantees on that last one though.