May 7, 20236 min read

The attitude of writing

What attitude to take during writing?

Last Updated May 7, 2023
Antique typewriter on dark wood
Photo by Patrick Fore

Some time ago, I wrote a post about, well, writing. I listed short and applicable principles for writing good nonfiction back then. The topic of this post is more elusive. I’ll describe the invisible current that flows through writing and attracts readers - attitude.

The sound of your voice

I’ll repeat myself, but writing is about you. It’s an act of ego. It’s a way to express your personality on paper or screen. But it doesn’t need to be egocentric. You can weave your personality into the material even you if write about t-statistic. Find a voice the reader will recognize, no matter what topic you write about. When we say we appreciate the style of writers, we often mean that we like their personalities.

You can achieve an effortless style through strenuous effort and constant refining.

Disarm the reader with warmth and humanity. Do not resort to flattery. People don’t like toadies. But also don’t move to the other extreme - don’t patronize your readers. Nobody likes when somebody is talking down to them.

Whosoever wishes to be above the folk in speech must be beneath them. Whosoever wishes to be ahead of them must be behind. The Taoist is above, yet (the folk) doesn’t feel any burden. He is ahead, yet (the folk) don’t feel any impediment.

Lao Tzu


The last paragraph sounds like a list of don’ts. My post about universal design principles consists of sections titled “What to avoid?” There is a good reason for that.

For writers and other creative artists, knowing what not to do is a determinant of taste.

An experienced graphic designer knows that less is more. I wouldn’t call myself that, but I’m also attracted to minimalism. Just look at my website - minimalism was a guiding principle. Similarly, prune out all unnecessary words from your writing. Choose words that have strength and precision. Avoid breeziness. After verbs, simple nouns are powerful tools - they resonate with emotion.

Overall, it’s hard to analyze and describe taste. I’m an engineer. I like short and precise definitions. But even I know it’s hard to expect that from humanistic fields. I think that taste it’s partly a matter of intuition. You know the text sounds right instinctively without conscious reasoning. But you can consciously develop your taste. Just read. Read a lot. Read broadly and regularly. Feed your model with many samples of quality text. Feed it with words as fresh as fruits in Jogobella commercials. Writing, in part, is an act of imitation.


A goofy comparison (similar to the one in the last paragraph) is one way to amuse yourself. You should sense enjoyment during writing. Writing is a lonely act. I’m an introvert, so it helps me during hours of writing. Still, even for me, a long post can be tiring. Every trick that keeps you sane is worth trying.

The reader has to feel that the writer is feeling good.

If you’re bored, maybe change your environment a bit. I wrote a part of this post on the desktop in my room, another section on the laptop in the local coffee shop, and another on a smart fridge in a restaurant. I might make up some locations, but the point is to experiment. You also don’t need to write in complete silence. Too many stimuli tire me, but I like some background noise during writing. It can be anything: birds singing, chatter in the coffee shop, or chill, lo-fi music.

You don’t need to be a clown, but subtle humor can invigorate any text. If something is funny, don’t fear to throw it in.


Overall, you can’t enjoy writing if you feel fear. Unfortunately, school is not doing a great job teaching the craft. It implants fear in us from an early age. English classes focus more on the history of literature than on writing plain, good English. Students must stick to archaic books and the answer key - it stifles their creativity. Teachers punish them for every typo, grammatical error, or not finishing the assignment on time. In such an environment, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by writing.

Nonfiction writers are infinitely accountable to the facts, the people they interviewed, the locale of their story, and the events that happened there.

Nonfiction writers can also be overwhelmed by the topic they want to write about. “Am I able to write eloquently about this?” I often ask myself this question. It can be paralyzing, but at the same time, it can be a good thing. Skepticism in the era of fake news is invaluable. The growing number of people that believe in conspiracy theories frightens me. It’s no longer a small percentage of some weirdos somewhere out there. It’s often a friend of a friend or even people in our close circles. Maybe this rant is a topic for another post, but I don’t want to spread misinformation. So, I do research. And I advise you to do the same.


Extensive preparations help build self-confidence. The rule can be applied to both public speaking and writing. It’s less likely to be wrong and stressed if you put hours into research. Of course, on the broad Internet, there will be some smart ass that will correct you on a minor detail. And that’s a good thing! Such a critical reader dedicates time to improve your content. Obviously, not all responses are like that. Don’t waste your time on pure hate. Address constructive feedback.

Pay attention to the other side of the spectrum too. If you put your heart into work, some people will appreciate it. I still remember one guy that emailed me explaining how he found my Jamstack blog post and concluding that he’s my new “psycho fan.” That first message from my reader was both unexpected and really gratifying. I felt like a nerdy rockstar. Even though I’m convinced that true confidence comes from the inside, some external validation can boost it too.

So, show your work! There is no better way to boost your skills and confidence than exposing your work regularly to the public.


Another way to be prepared is to write about a subject that interest you. It’s far more likely that you will put hours into research then.

Writers who write interestingly tend to be men and women who keep themselves interested.

I would even argue that’s the whole point of becoming a writer. That’s precisely my reason. I treat every post like a little experiment. I like knowing stuff, so running a blog motivates me to learn eclectic things. If you write about subjects you enjoy knowing about, your enjoyment will show.

Think broadly about your assignment. Push the boundaries of your subject and see where it takes you. I often find myself rummaging around the web. “Human genome has over 20 thousand genes, and it’s 25k shorter than the rice genome? That’s interesting.” If you find yourself saying that phrase, pay attention. Of course, don’t divagate too much but follow your nose. Trust your curiosity to connect with the reader’s curiosity. “Have I seen everything?” Ask yourself this question regularly.

The tyranny of the final product

However, it’s good to put a pen or keyboard away sometimes. It took me a while to understand that hyper fixation on finishing a task can be counterproductive. We have limited attention spans. We need to take care of the monkey inside us. Eat, sleep, and take breaks. The best ideas come unexpectedly at times. Several scientific discoveries were made after a sudden flash of insight. Sir Alec Jeffreys had an aha moment discovering DNA profiling. Repeatedly, I woke up with a solution for a bug or paragraph after a night of sleep.

Be primarily interested in the process, not the product.

The fixation on the finished article causes writers a lot of trouble. It deflects them from all the earlier decisions. I know sometimes deadlines are…deadly. There is no room to negotiate. But if you have time - don’t rush it. If the process is sound, the product will take care of itself. Allocate enough time for researching, structuring, drafting, writing, reading, editing, and publishing your texts. You don’t always have to think about writing in terms of the final product. Write for yourself as well.

Write as well as you can

Hearing about famous writers like Shakespeare or Orwell in school, it’s easy to be overwhelmed. Teachers glorify these authors and their work. Writing appears as this mystical, inspired activity available only for the selected few. But it doesn’t need to be like that. You don’t have to publish another 1984 to start writing. Start small. Good writing can appear anywhere. You can find it in a school essay, a local newspaper, or a niche blog. What matters is the writing itself, not the medium where it’s published. You don’t have to build a blog from the ground up like I did. Clear benefits come with this approach, but if you don’t have time or technical knowledge, there are many alternatives. Use CMS to manage your blog or post on a platform like Medium.

“Only later did I realize that I took along on my journey another gift from my father, a bone-deep belief that quality is its own reward.” William Zeisner, the author of the book I used as a source of inspiration for this post, wrote like that about his father. I don’t know what’s up with the old men. Do they have a secret meeting somewhere in the bush, and they collectively decide what values they pass on to their offspring? Maybe - because my father tells me very similar maxims. “Do things well or don’t do them at all.” Looking at it from perspective, I think it is a little extreme. Excessive perfectionism can hold you back from doing anything at all. So I propose a modified version of my father’s advice: “Do things as well as you can.” Write as well as you can.

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Software engineer with polymath aspirations.

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