Thursday, October 03, 2013

My writing - past & not past

While I often do posts with a tag of writing, and in those link to pieces others have done about the putting together of great writing, it seemed high time to ruminate a bit on my own writing as the last time I did so, via a post with a tag of blogging, was in December 2012.

Looking back on that aforementioned post titled "Reading and Writing,"  much of what I wrote then about the point of and approach to writing the blog still holds true with my (A) reading things of interest, (B) attempting to describe those pieces well and make connections between them, (C) creating both a repository of great writing and body of work with my thoughts on the pieces and (D) wanting to both appreciate the time I've spent on the effort and have it serve as a jumping off point to a next step in writing.

Two additional things that come to mind around writing include first how I love the ability narrative non-fiction has to translate to the masses information that would often be just too complex to follow if not written into a story. Two great features that came to mind as examples of this were "Has Carl June Found a Key to Fighting Cancer?" by Jason Fagone and "The Plutonium Gang: CH2M Hill Dismantles the Hanford Nuclear Site" by Steve Featherstone. Just very cool to me this concept of narrative writing enabling the passing along of information and work that may be highly technical and/or brilliant.

The second thing that occurs to me around writing, in this case more around my own, is it seems I'm doing something within a blog post similar to what would be done in writing a story. The idea for me is to find interesting information, look for more details about it and connections between different sources and then attempt to coherently write about the subject. The scale certainly different with me writing a several hundred word post about a few connected stories I've read as opposed to a 6,000+ word feature story for national publication that someone else might be doing, but the comparison seems to hold true.

If the stuff written about above is about what I've done with my own writing, below is focused on what to do going forward and having previously self-published two books with content from the blog; I'll almost certainly go ahead and compile and publish a third with more recent posts done. Beyond that (and as I mentioned above), I like to view my past writing as a jumping off point of sorts with two different (and not mutually exclusive) paths, with both diverging a touch from the additionally possible idea of researching and writing narrative non-fiction pieces on spec.

One thing I consider for future writing centers directly around my blog work already done. I think there’s something to be culled from past blog posts with writing from them as source material, similar to how I've created blog posts from writing by others, and note above as being somewhat similar to writing a piece from scratch. The end result may be fiction writing based on non-fiction, perhaps a fictional autobiography or perhaps something else, but either way it's sort of an everything counts approach to past and future writing.

The second thought that comes to mind around future writing stems from how I enjoy writing quite a bit, but also have a huge interest in writing within a larger picture. The process of putting together great writing and also having it be within a viable business is fascinating to me and perhaps something to explore and pursue. In terms of mechanics around how this more editor or business-centric path could be pursued, I've made a few good connections with established writers and there's also ways to increase education, with things to potentially explore including Coursera, Southern New Hampshire University's online offerings, MITOpenCourseWare, the edX venture founded by MIT and Harvard, Entrepreneurial Journalism offerings like the one from City University of New York, or the Nieman Foundation Visiting Fellowship.

When I think about a career path related to the things I'm interested in around writing, two ideas I've come across in the past come to mind. The first is the concept of jobs to be done, as written about by noted author and Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen in How Will You Measure Your Life? (which I reviewed here). The second idea is from an anecdote I heard about someone successful in their career and whose path to that had him (A) figuring out an area that someone could both make money in and become an expert in and then (B) doing that.

Maybe it's not really an accurate comparison, but I think about my interest in writing as sort of coming from the opposite side of that. I know an area I'm interested in and want to figure out a career within it. It seems a bit daunting, but at the same time, I can't be the only person with this interest and who's coming at it mid-career, and perhaps that fact also creates opportunity.