It can be a struggle to write about Workflow in a concise way that helps other people learn the way I did. This occurs due in part to the “curse of knowledge”, a topic I was reminded about reading on Jeremy Keith’s journal Adactio – it’s increasingly hard for an expert to explain a subject to someone who is new:
The author/teacher can’t remember what it’s like not to know something, which makes for a frustrating reading/learning experience.
I run into this all the time building workflows and trying to write about them, where I want a workflow for myself to function in multiple contexts or includes actions that give it more flexibility. But when I’m teaching people how to learn on their own, these additions become more concepts for them to learn in the moment, while I’m also trying to get them to grasp the purpose of the workflow itself.
I need to write more when I learn something new in the course of building workflows, taking the time to drop everything and write about it right then and there, as Jeremy suggests:
This is one of the reasons why I encourage people to blog about stuff as they’re learning it; not when they’ve internalized it. The perspective that comes with being in the moment of figuring something out is invaluable to others. I honestly think that most explanatory books shouldn’t be written by experts—the “curse of knowledge” can become almost insurmountable.
Writing as I’m learning will help more posts go up here on my site so I can share what I’m doing with others, but it also helps me learn and fully internalize things as I’m going along. I’ll have a record of strategies I came across, more pages to build on and reference to help engage in deeper topics, and can practice simplifying my explanations too.
Jeremy also suggests avoiding “just” in your language, which implies someone should know it already and they’ll feel bad if they can’t figure it out. Taking the extra time to cast away those assumptions and write in a way that’s fully explanatory takes more effort, but I think it’s what helped make the Workflow documentation digestible, even for more complex topics. Especially when you’re writing about using an interface, making sure to say “tap the gear icon at the bottom of the main page” instead of “just go to Settings” can go a long way.
If you’re ever reading my writing about Workflow or other technical subjects and run into jargon or something that’s not obvious, please don’t hesitate to reach out and let me know.
In the meantime, I just bought Sense of Style (Jeremy’s inspiration for his post), a book about dealing with the curse of knowledge – I’ll report back here with some of my findings along the way.