I received an email the other day from someone who is looking to expand their professional identity and brand. Of course one way to accomplish that is by writing and publishing or sharing your work with others. But this begs the natural question, “How do you know what to write about?” Or as I have often been asked, “Where do you get your ideas?” Since my email pal put these questions to me I thought I’d take a few minutes today to share my thoughts (see what I’m doing?).
As with any writing, technical or otherwise, the long standing maxim is “Write what you know.” I might extend that a bit and offer “Write about what interests or drives you.” Sure, Jeff. Clearly a lot of my work is driven by my interest in PowerShell and automation. But in such a large space how do I decide what to write about? The answer is easy: you.
One of the reasons I write, and do everything else I do, is to teach. This implies the reader needs or wants to learn something to improve a situation. Perhaps it is to solve a particular problem or advance their career. So I look for inspiration from my community of readers (and potential readers). What problems are they facing in their daily routines? What PowerShell features or technologies are proving problematic? What common mistakes or misconceptions do I often see?
Because I am self-employed and don’t work in a large corporate environment, I rely on world of social media and online communities as my sources of inspiration. I may get a question on Twitter, or see a question posted in the Facebook PowerShell group. My theory is that if the question is enough to drive someone to publicly post it they are probably not the only ones with the same question. I also keep an eye on a number of discussion and news forums. Often the problems here are from PowerShell beginners so I know I’m offering some value by writing about it.
One other source of inspiration is my own work. As I’m preparing demos for a conference presentation or working on Pluralsight course, I might encounter a problem. The problem, and my solution, often lead to writing project. Or as I continue to learn something new I might share my experiences. And as an absolute last resort, I’ll try to think of something to do with PowerShell that I haven’t seen before or pull it in an unexpected direction. This often results in a PowerShell function or module which I can share or write about.
The world of ideas is all around you and closer than you think. The challenging part is shifting your perception to recognize them. And don’t worry if you think the idea is too small or has been done before. Typically a shorter item is more valuable to a deep dive. And just because someone else, even me, may have written about a particular topic, your spin may offer something new and repetition is a critical to learning. This is why I always encourage people to read articles even on topics they think they know because there might be something new and sometimes a fresh look facilitates learning.
The best source of ideas could be the person in the next cubicle or that next tweet. Engage in your community, continue your own learning process, and there will be no end of content.