Time Spent Writing


Writing. I like it but it doesn't come easy. It's hard. Kind of like running a marathon is hard. Except with running I've learned to enjoy the struggle. With writing, this is still a grind.

The waterboarding of the ego. The crushing of the soul. The realization that I can't spell.

I'm a sporadic writer - like sunshine in Seattle, writing comes to me only a few times each year. I tend to write when I need to rant about something or I spent too much time deep diving on an issue.

I always feel as if I spent too much time writing. That it shouldn't take as long as it does. I don't know what the normal time to publication for an article should be but I felt I took many times longer than that.

I figured I couldn't be the only person feeling like this so I've decided to share my writing process. Maybe you're like me and this can help put your mind at ease. Maybe you're not in which case you can give me pointers on what you're doing different. In any case, this is a case study of my writing process.

CDK All The Things: A Whirlwind Tour

This was an article I published about the AWS CDK when it was still in preview. I just started using the AWS CDK at the time. I was a recovering YML addict and a cloudformation junkie. The CDK felt like the answer to a prayer I didn't know I had.

My strong feelings for the CDK led me to write this article.

When I start writing, I created a project to track my work in progress. Every piece I write follows the same basic checklist.

Multiple Phases

I write in multiple phases. First an idea. Then an outline. Then a more detailed outline. Then a version. Then another. The CDK piece had three versions though sometimes I can end up with over six versions by the time I'm done.

The outline is just that and v1 is usually a more detailed outline with more bullet points. v2 is when I start writing actual sentences and adding links. I usually wait to actually look up the links and will leave a TODO in their place. I also leave a TODO for sentences where I'm stuck for words. After v2, I fill go through all the TODOs and fill them out. I'll also track down any links I've skipped.

When everything seems ready, I will copy and paste everything into grammarly and do a final pass for grammar before publishing.

Dedicated Writing Time

I like to work in dedicated chunks of time. I aim for at least 30min and if I get stuck after that, I will usually stop and work on something else and pick up writing the next day. The below is my log for the CDK piece.

  • 1

    • 2019-06-09T07:12: start
    • 2019-06-09T09:21: stop, total: 129min
  • 2

    • 2019-06-10T16:52: start
    • 2019-06-10T17:55: stop, total: 63min
  • 3

    • 2019-06-11T10:20: start
    • 2019-06-11T12:17: stop, totoal: 117min
  • 4

    • 2019-06-11T19:07: start
    • 2019-06-11T20:12: stop, total: 65min
  • 5

    • 2019-06-12T14:50: start
    • 2019-06-12T15:36: stop, total: 45min
  • 6

    • 2019-06-13T08:55: start
    • 2019-06-13T09:42: stop, total: 50min
  • total: 7.8h

All in all, the piece took me 8h over 4 days. The final output is 3.5k words, or 500 words per hour. To put that in context, I was doing independent AWS consulting at the time and 8 hours equaled a few thousand dollars in missed billable hours.


When the piece is ready, I have a process for publishing which is different depending on the content.

  • blog
  • medium
  • linkedin

After publishing, I announce it across a number of channels. Depending on the subject matter, there might be more or less channels if I'm part of a specific community or not.

  • tweet
  • gitter cdk
  • post on hacker news
  • post on reddit aws