Harry Wolff

You can't escape my laugh.

Writing Is Like Creating a Product

January 29, 2015
Read time 2 minutes

When I sit down to write I typically bring my engineering mind to the task. It's the part of me which requires that 2 comes after 1, that every part of a whole is carefully planned out, sized up, and evaluated before any form of actual creation truly begins. The engineering side of me requires rules and structure, and a desire to know what the future holds so that I can plan for it today.

Sadly those characteristics are not conducive to writing. With writing I know two things before I start: one - that I want to write, and two - what I want to write about. I know point A and point B, but everything else in-between is completely unknown. I may know a few topics and ideas I want to touch on while working my way towards point B, but to actually plan out every sentence before I even start writing? Impossible. There's no way to know what turns and twists I'll encounter as I start to put word to paper.

This is where my engineering mind starts to thrash.

The mere thought of working on some application, not gathering every bit of knowledge ahead of time, and then skipping planning and studying how every part will impact the overall design makes my stomach clench into a knot. This is engineering suicide.

Yet in writing it's creative and beautiful. Writing requires exploration, as does product design. Exploring every small notion is what writing is about, and it is what results in successful products. Some notions may not pan out, and some may add a depth to your work that you could not have predicted. And even still, some may invalidate a whole chapter of your book, or a weeks worth of product design, yet it is only through these experiments and failures that you are able to strengthen and improve upon your work.

You must approach writing without a parachute. For as you jump out of the airplane towards earth you'll notice so much more along your descent than if you had to worry about releasing your pesky parachute on time. You must be free and limber while writing, freeing yourself from every encumbrance, because as soon as you start to ensnare yourself with worry of impending doom, that is when you find yourself already dead on the ground.

Product design is fragile and full of trial and error. If you don't protect your silly notions and prevent yourself from exploring unknown ideas then your product is stifled out of existence before it can ever see the light of day.

When writing, or when creating a product, be free in your approach. The only hurdles you'll find are the ones you place in front of you, because there are no limits in these realms. This is so hard to remember because engineering has hard and strict limits around every piece of work. There's an element of shock from rebounding against nothing when moving over to design that forces me to pause. Yet I must remove my mental fences if I hope to ever see my work run free.