Lightning Writing

Today I’m working on an invited session for SPA2005 with Laurent Bossavit, shepherded by Rachel Davies . It is about freewriting, the session is called Lightning Writing Workshop. Freewriting consists of setting apart 5 to 10 minutes to write in one go continuously, without censoring yourself. Getting Started with Freewriting contains a brief explanation of the process, as well as some useful links on the topic. My main motivation to co-create this workshop with Laurents is to get myself restarted with freewriting, and explore one more way of writing in-depth.

I just tried a 5-minute freewriting exercise on a question Marc Evers asked me today: What does product management mean? The exercise didn’t come out with a specific answer, it did turn up some hints about what I think it should be: about a long-term vision translated in a concrete fashion to day-to-day actions, where software is developed in small increments without taking a mortgage on the future. I also started writing about some situations where I succeeded or failed to collectively do effective product-management with clients and developers on one hand, and consulting clients of mine whom I am helping to deal more effectively with outsourcing on the other hand.

As I was writing this, I was thinking I haven’t done much freewriting before. In fact I have, but I wasn’t aware of it. I have three or four notebooks filled with notes and diagrams, written at moments when I was contemplating my work. Amongst others, it is promoted in Becoming a technical leader by Gerald Weinberg, to set a few minutes apart every day to write about what you experienced that day. I did that for a few weeks in a notebook, but found it difficult to keep it up. On the other hand, I am writing about my experiences every day in e-mail messages to my friends and sometimes a blog-entry such as this one.

One of the reasons it may be hard to write regularly, is that writing is one of those things that is always important, never urgent. Freewriting may help to get started, as it takes only five minutes to begin.

Getting good at anything requires lots and lots of practice, and sometimes letting go of the critic inside you, so you can enjoy small successes and failures.

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