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How to write about a topic that has already been covered elsewhere

Recorded – watch the full episode on YouTube.

Some folks want to write about a topic that has already been written about by others. What advice do you have for them?

John Sundell: That's a very good question. Occasionally, I see someone publishes an article and there are some people who will just reply and say, why did you write about this? Paul already wrote about it, or John already wrote about it, or whoever already wrote about it. And I always feel like those comments are so incredibly destructive and I would really encourage everybody listening here: if you ever feel like leaving such a comment, don't do it.

"Chances are incredibly small that you would have applied it the exact same way as everybody else."

So why is that destructive? And this is kind of an answer here to your question is that I think it's incredibly important that we feel like we can just share things, even if it's not like an original thing, even if it's not that you invented some brand new pattern. It might just be your take on it. It might just be how you learned this thing. It might just be how you applied it within your code base. Because guess what? Chances are incredibly small that you would have applied it the exact same way as everybody else. Right? You usually have some form of unique take on it, even if you're not aware of it. Even if you didn't have some kind of light bulb moment where you were like, “now I discovered this new pattern." It might just be that you applied it in a different way.

I think it's incredibly important to keep that in mind, that you shouldn't let the fact that someone else has already written about X, Y, or Z block you from doing that. Write about it because you want to. Again, I think motivation is so important and it needs to come from you. It needs to be that you are interested in sharing this particular expertise or this particular learning. That's where it needs to come from, not because there's some form of demand or because you invented something new. It can just be that it's something that you wanted to write about because you're passionate about it.

"I think it's incredibly important to keep that in mind, that you shouldn't let the fact that someone else has already written about X, Y, or Z block you from doing that. Write about it because you want to."

Paul Hudson: So under normal circumstances, I take my kids for ice skating lessons every Sunday, and I have them too, and one thing the teacher said to me was “listen, basically, nothing comes naturally in ice skating. Humans weren't designed to get on slippy things with sharp blades on their feet and slide around. We aren't naturally good at ice skating." I think the same is true of programming. We aren't naturally designed to create delegates and protocols and similar, right? It's not baked into our DNA by any means.

And so sometimes, nearly everything we have to learn, even from the very basics of types, what's a string, what's a protocol, whatever, the simple thing is that you have to learn that and try it again, again, again. And when someone says, “here's what they a monad is.” And you go, “I didn't get that.” Read another thing. Here's what a monad is. Nope, didn't get that. And the eighth time they goes, “oh, it's like a burrito”! Whatever it is that finally clicks, that thing didn't necessarily fully explain it to you. It was the combination of that. Plus this, plus this, plus this, plus this. Your pathway to learn that thing is basically guaranteed to be unique and therefore shareable and distinct and unique from everyone else. So when you come down to write an article, what is a monad in Swift? Your take is unique.

“Different people like to learn in different ways. And you might just be creating a new way of learning about that specific technique or that specific thing that other people will just connect with.”

John Sundell: I totally agree. Different people like to learn in different ways. And you might just be creating a new way of learning about that specific technique or that specific thing that other people will just connect with. And I think it's so important to keep in mind. And it's like, we don't want to silence people in our community, right? We want to do the opposite.

We want to encourage people to share. And you know, sometimes I feel like in our industry, we are so quick at just like selecting some kind of winner, whether it's like a framework like, this is the framework for networking on iOS, or this is the framework for that, or this framework for that.

It's the same thing with websites, with podcasts, with YouTube channels, whatever. It's like, this is the one channel everyone should be listening to. And I don't think that's healthy. I think the more people we can have who are contributing, the more voices we can have, the more people we can have sharing things, the better, the more diverse opinions we will get. We will all inspire each other. And I think that's really what we should be doing. Like, again, encouraging people, like if someone wants to share something, then go right ahead. No one is going to stop you. No one should stop you because you should just be able to do it.

Paul Hudson: At this point, publishing new stuff for me, for you, for Sean and other regular publishers about Swift stuff, there isn't any fear. We've got our techniques, our plans, our processes, we feel confident about it. When someone new comes along and put up their first blog post or their first open source pull request, whatever it is, I have nothing but respect because that takes on a lot of bravery.

"The first article was incredibly difficult, and sometimes it can still be difficult to write, but it's a skill you learn."

John Sundell: Yes, it does. And it's also really hard, right? Like, it's a skill, writing. That's why I wanted to start writing weekly because I wanted to learn that skill. I wanted to get better at writing. And writing now for me is easier and easier and easier. The first article was incredibly difficult, and sometimes it can still be difficult to write, but it's a skill you learn. And it's the same with anything. If you want to get better at whatever it is, you just have to do it. And the first time you do something, it's not going to be perfect, it's not going to be the best, but give it your best shot and try and see if you like it. That's the most important thing I think.

This transcript was recorded as part of Swiftly Speaking. You can watch the full original episode on YouTube, or subscribe to the audio version on Apple Podcasts.

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