How to overcome writer's block as a developer blogger?

How to overcome writer's block as a developer blogger?
Photo by Unseen Studio / Unsplash

This year, I decided to solidify my writing habit by publishing an article every week.

It went well for the first couple of weeks, but as time went on, it began to feel like a drag. Ideas kept slipping away, and words seemed to escape me.

Writing became a chore.

I found myself scrambling every weekend, writing something every two hours so I could publish on Monday. This cycle repeated week after week. Despite my efforts, I couldn’t bring myself to write in advance.

However, last night, I took a step back to thoroughly consider and research why I was struggling with writing.

Initially, I attributed my difficulties to the so-called 'writer's block,' but I soon realized that wasn’t the actual issue.

I had a research block, not a writing block.

40+ Hilarious research memes that will make you smile - forms.app

Yes, you read that correctly. As a non-fiction writer focused on technical articles, my process hinges significantly on research.

Without it, I'm essentially left without content.

Reflecting on my early blogging days, I recall writing about everything I learned, which was feasible because everything was new to me.

Fast forward four years, my learning curve has plateaued somewhat. While I still learn, my focus has shifted towards broader topics in DevOps, Release Engineering, and specific tools like Crossplane, Terraform, etc...

This shift has inadvertently led to a decrease in my research depth, directly impacting my ability to produce content.

It's a simple truth: I cannot write about what I do not know deeply.

So, for anyone finding themselves in a similar predicament, the solution is to amplify your research efforts. Once you have a solid foundation of knowledge, writing becomes the easier part of the equation.

How much should you research?

It's easy to fall into the endless loop of research, constantly seeking more information. However, knowing when to stop is key.

While it’s crucial to avoid getting bogged down, erring on the side of thoroughness is generally wise. I advocate for researching until you're able to explain the subject in terms so simple that even a 5-year-old could grasp it.

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I believe I got this method from renowned physicist Richard Feynman. If you're interested, here's a video explaining his studying technique.

Tips on how to research better

Now that we got to the root of the problem, my next objective was to enhance my research skills significantly.

Through meticulous investigation and self-reflection, I've discovered several strategies that have dramatically improved my research process.

Below, I share the key changes and techniques that have made the most difference.

Have a better note-taking system

Initially, my approach to note-taking was somewhat haphazard. I experimented with a basic setup in Notion and even dabbled with Obsidian, but none of these methods truly resonated with me at first.

I returned to Obsidian because I knew I liked the connections system it had. So as a restart, I use a single vault for everything and try to capture as many notes as possible.

This raw collection of thoughts and information serves as a fertile ground from which I can later distil more structured insights.

I later then review and organize these notes into their respective folders. While doing that, I sometimes pick up on connections among them.

This refined approach not only aids in retaining information but also in synthesizing new ideas from seemingly distinct pieces of information.

Use different search engines

This was something I read on Reddit. Google has its algorithms on page ranking and I always thought that other search engines would be quite similar.

But that's not what I discovered.

While researching "Release Engineering," DuckDuckGo revealed several invaluable articles and papers—resources I would have missed had I relied solely on Google.

This experience underscored the importance of diversifying search tools to uncover hidden gems.

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They might've been the second or third pages of Google but I usually never go that far, but probably should. Who knows?

Read academic papers

This is another tip I got from Reddit, where you can use Google Scholar to search for terms in academic papers.

This approach has been transformative because I get access to direct sources rather than relying on secondary interpretations found in YouTube videos or blog articles.

Reading material straight from the experts offers a deeper, undiluted understanding of topics.

Follow the Sources

Try to find the sources of the stuff you're reading.

If you're on Wikipedia, you can find it at the end of the page. It will sometimes lead you into rewarding research rabbit holes.

I also like to do this with books so I make sure to check out the references section for any useful recommendations. Finally, if there's any author I like, I try to find what they read and read that.

Learn About Different Topics

It's really helpful to know about things that aren't directly related to what you're focusing on. Sometimes, you can link ideas from completely different areas, and that's what I think true wisdom is all about."

Conclusion

This was such a joy to write because I'd already done all the research beforehand and wrote this in one sitting.

I know this isn't a technical article but the same could be said about that. Now that you've learned why you aren't writing as much, I would like to end it with the following quote:

While this isn't a technical article, the insights apply universally.

To end our discussion, I leave you with a guiding principle:

"It's always better to over-research than to under-research."
I just realized something amazing - this is my 100th article online. It's kind of wild that it's this one. Writing and sharing these tips has been a big part of my journey. Thanks for being with me on this ride.

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