Writing as Thinking
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Writing as Thinking

Practices for Technology Professionals

About the Book

As knowledge workers, we weave other people’s thinking (and experiences) into our own. We construct recommendations that we believe have value. We try to envision what is not yet visible and bring it to life.

We also get lost in the forest of disparate opinions. We go down promising paths and find dead ends. We discover a viable path ... and almost nobody follows. We are sometimes screaming into the wind. 

Constructing something whole and actionable from abstract ideas requires creating conceptual integrity.

Unfortunately, we are truly terrible at creating or maintaining conceptual integrity … unless we are supported by practices.

Fortunately, writing is the practice of crafting conceptual integrity.

Writing practices help us to:

  • Strengthen metacognition – awareness and understanding of our own thought process. 
  • Synthesize knowledge, experience and sound judgement into well-reasoned recommendations.
  • Inquire and explore new insights.
  • Integrate disparate ideas and experiences.
  • Focus on how to think, rather than what to think.
  • Structure our learning and help us navigate uncertainty.
  • Think well, together.

The better our thinking, the better the outcomes. When people collectively strengthen their reasons for acting, they make better decisions together. How we engage each other's thinking is critical to creating high-levels of conceptual integrity.  When we structure spaces where knowledge can grow and flourish, we provide integrative leadership … and generate true and lasting change.

Workshop participants get a free copy!

Table of Contents

Practice writing by (just) writing

Writing is less about controlling the process and more about trusting the process. This is a tough first step: just write. Just write and listen to what you think.

There is an ocean of ideas about what “good writing” is. We can drown in it. Rather than discovering what we think, we’ve been taught to write what we think other people want us to think. That’s a bad habit. We’re going to drop that habit, for now. We will practice “good writing” later but first, and for awhile, we are going to just write.

Focused writing

We can't think if we can't concentrate, so we create space in our daily life for focus.

Synthesizing and learning

Learning is the lifelong practice of synthesizing our knowledge and experience with other people’s. Knowledge is a social activity that we practice through reading, writing, engaging, thinking, experiencing and manifesting. Our learning practice teaches us sound judgment – discerning what to amplify and what to question. Through learning, we move the world around us towards thinking differently.

Designing feedback loops

Including others in your thinking process without derailing it.

Systemic reasoning

Crafting recommendations in support of an idea, action or theory.

Strengthening the reasons

After we write our recommendations in support of an action, idea or theory, we iterate on and improve the reasons that underpin it. Our first pass will rarely be our final draft. The editing process changes our view as it trains us to think and write with more conceptual integrity.

Adapting and exanding your thinking

Once we understand our idea and the reasons that support it, we begin the process of adapting it for different audiences.

Model your thinking

Visually and relationally expressing our thinking helps create stronger and more cohesive writing.

About the Author

Diana Montalion
Diana Montalion

Before she began her tech career, Diana was a writer, actor, bookseller and teacher of creative endeavors. As a software engineer and team leader, she has 18+ years experience delivering initiatives to clients including Stanford, The Gates Foundation, World Monuments Fund and Teach For All. She has served as principal systems architect for The Economist and The Wikimedia Foundation. She has taught many workshops about tech stuff.

Diana is founder of Mentrix, where she designs technology systems and teaches workshops on systems thinking. She is the author of the upcoming O'Reilly book “Learning Systems Thinking: Essential Non-linear Skills and Practices for Software Professionals.".

Table of Contents

    • Introduction
      • Exercises
      • Further reading
    • Practice writing by (just) writing
      • Writing is the yoga of thinking
      • Listening to your mind
      • Cultivating conceptual integrity
      • Wisdom, maybe
      • Just write
      • How to (just) write
      • Frequently asked questions
      • Exercises
      • Further reading
    • Focused Writing
      • Focused work is hard
      • Do it anyway
      • How to practice focused writing
      • Plan your day around a focus session
      • Exercises
      • Further reading

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