I recently took a weekend retreat to the Pocono mountains to write.
I learned a lot about writing, a lot about writing retreats, and a little about web design in the process. If design is the rendering of intent, as Jared Spool says, then writing is the ultimate act of design — even when it’s fiction writing.
Read more about rendering intent, in all its incarnations on The Pastry Box
My latest column on The Pastry Box is about getting the design team (and especially the business representatives) past the idea that their audience is “everyone” so that you can target the most valuable users of the site. Read Back to Basics: Differentiating Personas.
It’s been a bit crazy around here.
On February 3rd, my scheduled article for The Pastry Box, Recovery, went up. That was, as usual, exciting for me. This month’s post was about being kind to yourself, because you can. People seem to like it a lot.
So my phone was already buzzing with twitter notifications as different folks found and commented on that post, which made me pretty happy.
Then about mid-morning, A List Apart posted Reframing Accessibility for the Web, a piece I wrote about ableism, accessibility, and testing strategies that move accessibility into technology. That’s when my phone started vibrating off my desk.
The article, which has been read and tweeted about more times than I can count, has been very well-received. The most an author can accomplish is to get people thinking — anything beyond that is a bonus. Based on the comments and feedback I’ve gotten, I’ve gotten people thinking, and that makes me very satisfied indeed.
It’s also gotten me remembering the requests I’d received for a printable version of An Alphabet of Accessibility Issues back in July.
So here it is, better late than never, an Alphabet of Accessibility Issues PDF that you can download and print onto whatever size paper you happen to have available. Hang it around the office, in the lobby, or wherever you work on your design and development stuff. Update: thanks to the fine folks at Emerge Interactive the PDF is now tagged for better accessibility!
As for me, I’m thinking of something more oriented toward design heuristics for my next piece. It’ll be fun.
For me, writing and design have often come down to a specific set of rules: define your thesis, then prove it.
(I was one of those jerks that loved writing literature papers by the way. My undergrad’s in English for a reason.)
The biggest problem, of course, is that you start by defining your thesis, go research it, and discover that hey, maybe your thesis is wrong. You refine your thesis, start writing, try to bring all that research into something that makes sense, and realize that nope, thesis isn’t quite right yet. That super-critical point that you believe with your heart to be true? Totally false. And you can try to fake it, but any good reader is going to see that you’re not actually backing your thesis adequately. And that’s going to erode your position, making the entire piece less effective. So you have to loop around again.
(I feel the same way about design. It’s great that the “thesis” of your webpage is “buy this shirt” but when you advertise seventeen other shirts, fifteen features of other products, and a lawn mower, as well as invite your reader to visit three other sites of yours and like you on Facebook, you’re eroding your thesis that “this is the shirt you want to buy”.)
My column on The Pastry Box shifted from the 16th of the month to the 3rd with the beginning of the new year, and I found that although I’d started a long and rambling piece on how different people come with different cognitive tools for dealing with the world, it has no functional thesis. Well, it has five function theses, which is a problem.
So instead, I described how to edit any piece down to one thesis.
Maybe it will help you. Heck, maybe it will help me.
I survived National Novel Writing Month and I hit my goal of finishing my book!
And it’s also not total junk!
So this month I dedicate my post on The Pastry Box to the “word sprints” and pomodoro technique that got me through the grind of writing 85,000 words in 30 days. Read Lessons from the Word Trenches to put word count misery to bed.