Dont read this
Dont Read This
Thursday, 27 August 2009 06:44 Hrs
❝ I don’t write for anything, other than for my own selfish reasons, so stop reading, now.

Still reading?

Feeling distracted? I often think about this process when I read articles on-line, only to get distracted. The repeated mistake I make? I ask the question after I’ve read the article. If I write for my own selfish reasons, do others? What makes something worth reading might not be the same for you as it is to me, but I think good writers successfully combine three things at once. They A) solve a particular problem well, B) solve a problem that is applicable to you. And C) write in an entertaining way that makes you want to read more.

If you think about this for a minute, the chances of finding writing that combines the union of these three characteristics is pretty low. It reminds me somewhat of the problem deciding where I can simultaneously eat, read and program code. Where do you go? Do you stay at home? Do you go to a Cafe’? Is the travel worth it? Some destinations have great food but are too noisy to work. Others have great couches and natural light but no power plugs. It’s a rare place where the quality of the food is matched by the Wi-Fi bandwidth and coffee.

So that’s my reading mantra now. No more bad food and coffee, saggy couches, intermittent Wi-Fi and noisy cafe”s. I only want to read things that solve particular problems I’m working on. Most important it has to make me laugh. [0]

It’s a tall order, but that”s what I’m sticking to. I”m sick of reading equivalent of ‟repair manuals for tractors”. [1] Now don’t get my wrong, I like tractors as much as the next person but I’m not going to waste any more of my time reading articles inspired by cutting edge ‟Russian industrial design”. Which brings me to the number one reason why I write.

Why write?

I write for my own selfish reasons mainly to get ‟new ideas”, I also write for a multitude of other reasons. Do you think I wrote about JSON and sausages [2] for the technical merits of plain text data formats alone? Wrong. I was probably just hungry at the time watching cooking shows on television and I just happened to be thinking about the best way to transport data users could edit.

What about GTD with nothing? Did I write this exclusively with the intention to explore ways Startups can move forward in difficult circumstances with few resources? Or was it to inoculate myself from the horrors of Black Saturday? [3]

Ten signs of failure was a quick article looking for clues leading to failure. I wrote this because I can’t seem to finish an article I’m writing on Failure. [4] How about Girls, relationships and cattiness?? [5] I wrote this not specifically to understand why bullies gave my a hard time at my last year at High School but more to see how Queen Bee behaviour [6] might impact users in a Startup idea I’ve been working on.

Do you see the pattern?

What’s bugging me?

I write to solve problems that bug me and in the process of writing I also generate new ideas. Sometimes potential solutions to questions I haven’t thought of before. I write and the solutions just seem to appear. ‟Where do you start?”, you might ask? For me it’s a simple question of asking myself, ‟what’s bugging me now?”. Intelligently applied this seems to be enough to kick-start writing. Write down a key idea, then work out exactly what is bugging me. Then try to find a solution in words.

Solve a problem

Solving a problem through writing is the fun part. I think the hard bit is asking the right question. It takes a certain suspension of reality to ask yourself, ‟what is it that is bugging me enough to write about fixing it?”. It will probably not come as a shock though that writing about ‟solving a problem” isn’t really solving a problem at all. For that you have to work hard. Not writing work, but real work. Why bother then? Well to better understand why writing is good for solving problems you should probably look at the world of Art and portraits.

❝ Writing is a starting point of ideas, much like the inspiration you get right before you put charcoal to paper for a twenty minute warm-up of a nude model.

The quick thought you have before you start. It’s not really solving the drawing problem as much as it’s a derivative of an investigation. It won’t produce a drawing but provides the necessary inspiration to start. [7] A mental sketch before the physical sketch of a potential oil painting. That’s why writing about solving problems is fun. You gain insight into your problem then promptly forget about the hard work ahead.


Writing about something should first solve a problem, your problem. But making it entertaining shouldn’t be a planned goal. The only reason I can think to make writing entertaining is so I don’t get bored reading it. [8]

Around the world each year, millions of people are tortured into reading ‟official government” forms written by highly imaginative accountants. Substitute ‟on-line articles” for ‟forms”, ‟Bloggers” for ‟official government accountants” to get a better idea of my problem.

If you read on-line, a lot of what you read is ‟accountant” approved. Accurate but dry and totally unremarkable. It’s hard work, but I feel much better reading and writing about something I really enjoy. I’d hate to think, that what I write makes me feel the equivalent of Marty Feldman at Tax time. [9] Let alone others.

The discerning reader

The point of this quick diversion is to remind myself two things. The first: Recognise that a lot of what you read is probably at best a distraction and at worst it wont solve any problems you have and wont be funny. The second: Realise a good way to solve your own problems is not to rely entirely on what others write, but write yourself. Write about your problems and make your own discoveries. Realising that writers write for their own selfish reasons makes for a more discerning reader.

Hence the warning, ‟Don’t read this”.


[0] Of the four lessons Roald Dahl recommends, this the one he places great emphasis on. 1) Make up ridiculous rhyming words, 2) always have conflict between good and evil characters where good always triumphs over bad 3) Have have characters do ridiculous things and 4) make it funny. Most of all make things enjoyable to read. [Last Accessed: Wednesday 26th August, 2009]

[1] I once worked at a place where raw materials came in unpacked off containers. The boxes all stamped with labels saying this particular box was made at ‟Stamping Mill #13” made at such and such location and country. Utilitarian design at its best.

[2] seldomlogical, ‟Fat-free data alternative: I’m building a new product. I want give users access to their own data. Do I let them have it with the lot? Or offer a fat-free alternative?”, [Last Accessed: Wednesday 26th August, 2009]

[3] seldomlogical, ‟Getting stuff done with nothing” I retitled the talk on the day to ‟Kick-starting Volunteers”. It not only made the title shorter but placed the talk into a bigger context. The ideas I used to solve problems on Black Saturday could just as easily be applied to volunteers or Startups., [Last Accessed: Wednesday 26th August, 2009]

[4] seldomlogical, ‟10 signs of failure” While writing up an upcoming article on ‟failure”, I realised I’d come up with a mini article on failure. Here is a list of warning signs indicating, you might be about to fail at a given task. [Last Accessed Wednesday 26th August, 2009]

[5] flickr, 2009AUG251053, ‟SBS INSIGHT: girls, relationships & cattiness”, ‟What is it about girls that can make their relationships troublesome and catty?” [Last Accessed: 26th August, 2009]

[6] Amazon, Rosalind Wiseman, Three Rivers Press, 2009 ‟Queen Bees and Wannabes”, [Last Accessed: Wednesday 26th August, 2009]

[7] Having done years of drawing in studios, warm-up sketches, the 5 minute and 20 minute sketches mean you have to work fast and capture the essence of what is there. You don’t have long before you start. That first idea before you start really translates a good sketch to a great sketch depending how well you think it will go.

[8] Who knows if other people like my sense of humour or story telling? I write to keep myself amused.

[9] Marty Feldman, the great English comic, writer and actor with his bulging eyes. I love his work, but never quite know exactly where to look at his face., [Last Accessed Wednesday 26th August, 2009]


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