Utilizing My Strengths as a Writer

Day 13/31: Blog Your Own Book Challenge

Parag Shah
7 min readAug 16, 2020

This is my thirteenth post for the Blog Your Own Book Challenge. In the previous few posts, I identified my strengths and weaknesses as a writer followed by identifying writing opportunities in the fields of Memoirs, Journaling & Therapeutic Writing, and Self-Care.

In this post, I brainstorm about how I can fully utilize my strengths as a writer, not just in what I write but also for whom I write and how I write.

Strengths and Writing Opportunities as a Writer

Recapping the main points from previous posts:

Professional experience

I’ve worked for twenty years in the software industry as an independent software developer, teacher, corporate trainer, and startup-founder.

I’ve worked alone as a single-person team and with small teams. I’ve exclusively worked on projects that were involved in developing products as opposed to services.

I understand software product development and small team dynamics along with work from home dynamics.

I’ve worked as a freelancer so I know a few things about managing work as an independent worker.

I know a few things about managing work as a freelancer.

I’ve been interviewed and have also interviewed a lot of software developers and students. As a software developer, I have also asked and answered a lot of questions on software forums. I learned how to ask good questions and how to do my background research before asking a question.

I believe this (interviewing skills) gives me a good foundation to conduct research and interview people as part of a book writing process.

I’ve tried my hands at a failed ed-tech startup. Even though the startup itself was a failure, I learned how to single-handedly build, design, and market a product from scratch.

My solo-startup gave me the experience to implement a product single-handedly from conception to completion. This skill can be transferred to writing as well.

Writing experience

Even though much of my writing has been related to technology or ed-tech, it’s still a good amount of writing that I’ve done over a period of twenty years.

As someone who wrote and received specifications, I learned the danger of nebulous specifications and the assumptions that are made by the developing team as a result of such specifications. Consequently, I try to be as specific as possible in my writing.

I can understand and specify a requirement or concept and articulate it in a way that does not leave out any important details.

As someone who’s written software development tutorials, I have learned how to give good analogies and explain a concept with effective examples. At times, I also had to connect non-software concepts with software to explain something in layman’s terms. I learned how to connect similar concepts from different fields in the process.

I can provide analogies and make connections between different fields in order to explain a concept.

I’ve written several internal FAQs for the teams I worked with. In the process of doing that, I was always on the lookout for parts of the software that were confusing or concepts that weren’t clear. I documented such confusing patches in an internal FAQ so others wouldn’t have to struggle unnecessarily with what I, or someone else, had already struggled with.

I can spot what requires greater clarification and then provide that clarification.

Lots of journaling

I’ve journaled for over fifteen years. Initially, what started as a simple to-do list evolved into a learning journal, collection of daily experiences, details of meetings, a planner for my work and life, a whiteboard and companion for brainstorming, a place where I wrote about my pains, fears, and confusions, and a list of lessons learned. My journal has been the most constant companion in this strange journey of life.

I can write from my personal experience about journaling and therapeutic writing.

Niche traveling interests

I love to travel. Even as a small child I loved watching the landscape change and the road go by. But I have my own quirks and preferences while traveling. I am not into sightseeing or going to famous places monuments, etc. I’m not much into adventure either. I like to go to a place and stay there for a month. I like to get a feel of the place, meet local people, sit and work from local coffee shops (no popular coffee chains), and just “be there”. This is the kind of travel that gives me joy.

If there is an audience who enjoys this sort of travel then I can write for that niche audience. If there isn’t, I can still bring my experiences from the places I have travelled to my writing.

Life and lemons

Life’s given me many lemons. Relationships, long-term chronic illness, near bankruptcy situations, and a few others.

I have a good collection of lemons that are laying in cold storage waiting to be turned into lemonade in the form of autobiographical fiction or lessons-learned-the-hard-way articles.

Personal experience with the ill-effects from lack of self-care

I’ve personally experienced the ill-effects of giving too much of myself without replenishing my own reserves. Self-care and self-love were completely alien concepts to me for the greater part of my life. Because of these experiences I have come to value the profoundly simple but powerful concept of self-care.

This gives me the ability to write about self-care, self-love, and journaling as a form of self-care from a personal perspective.

Making the Most of My Strengths

Utilizing my strengths to select what I write

  1. Short memoirs based on certain life experiences and lessons learned.
  2. Autobiographical fiction in the form of short stories.
  3. I can write about the process of journaling and how to work with a journal for growth in different areas of life.
  4. I can write about healing through reading books and therapeutic writing.
  5. I can write about the importance and the practice of self-care.
  6. Having personally experienced Crohns Disease, that took from me most of my prime years, I’d love to write about how one can deal with such a situation and make the most of the small windows of joy that life opens up and persist without losing hope for the future.
  7. I can do technical writing. It’s a fairly large field that spans from writing API docs, tutorials, specifications, to internal technical documentation.
  8. I may also be able to provide a very specific type of editing service. A service where I can point out parts in a manuscript that lack clear articulation. I can also point out where the author has left certain facts unspecified because they were obvious to the author. However, they may not be that obvious to the reader causing them to make needless assumptions.
  9. From the perspective of the genre, I think I am most suited for technical writing, creative non-fiction, and short stories.
  10. From the perspective of the final packaged product, I’m most likely looking at short-story collections, short non-fiction books, long-form articles, and blog posts.

Utilizing my strengths to select my audience

If I assume that the people who will be most receptive to my writing are similar to people I have worked with or similar to me or share the same kind of life issues as me, then my audience will most likely consist of:

  1. Software developers and technical project leaders.
  2. Anyone interested in the practice of journaling for personal and professional growth.
  3. Anyone — especially empaths — interested in the practice of self-care, therapeutic writing, and creative journaling for healing.
  4. Anyone interested in short autobiographical fiction.

Utilizing my strengths in the process of writing

  1. As a software developer, I have a fairly organized process for writing code. However, I also have to be flexible enough to change my approach as well as junk large amounts of code if a more effective approach becomes evident. I can transfer this combination of organization and flexibility to my writing process. I‘ll also be able to delete or rewrite large amounts of already written text without losing too much sleep over it :-)
  2. Modularity is one of the core principles of software design. I believe, good non-fiction writing also needs to be modular for better readability. Modularity as well as certain other software design concepts such as “separation of concerns” are also applicable to writing structure.
  3. Most software projects I have worked on needed research and it’s something that I also enjoy. Research and the joy of doing research is certainly a skill that I can bring to writing.
  4. My experience of interviewing people for different reasons can be also be used to collect information for my books.
  5. Along with writing software, I also enjoy the process of testing and debugging. I believe it’s a skill that may complement regular editing skills.

This has been a very helpful exercise. It feels like I am one step closer to clarity.

In the next article, I will outline my weaknesses as a writer and brainstorm which weaknesses I need to accept and manage vs. which weaknesses need me to upskill and bridge the skill gap.

Thank you for reading!