We did a week entirely dedicated to writing, and you should do one too

All my teammates are always excited about writing blog posts, but end up without any spare work time to do them. Hearing them say on multiple occasions they’d love to have some time for writing inspired me to try something a little different — a hack week, but with everyone entirely focused on writing 🎉

At Buildkite we do a hack week about every six weeks. We work on tasks or ideas that we’re particularly interested in that aren’t necessarily related to our regular work. The idea for Writing Week was that the team would spend a whole week up-skilling on writing. By the end of the week, everyone would have completed a blog post or piece of documentation and be ready to post it.

The end result: everyone was excited about writing! 🙌 We all had solid outlines and at least a first draft to continue working on.

The Plan™

I started out with a rather ambitious plan. I worked out when everything was going to happen, and practically planned it down to the minute 😅 The main things that I wanted to include were:

  • Our usual hack week kickoff team breakfast, but with printed paper slips with all the ideas people had previously mentioned on them. We’d each select one or more ideas from the pile to work on that week.
  • Individual brainstorming sessions before starting writing
  • An information session for the team on user profiles and how to write them
  • Lots of individual writing time
  • A lunch and learn to provide some general information on copywriting
  • A workshop to prepare the tweets to announce our blog posts

What actually ended up happening:

  • Breakfast was excellent! It was nice to have some extra time away from screens to kick off the day.
  • All of the writing time was much more ad hoc than anticipated.
  • We all needed a lot more writing time than I thought we would, especially towards the end of the week.
  • While I wanted to do a lunch and learn style info session, I ended up posting all the info on basecamp instead so that it would stick around as a permanent record.
  • Editing took up more time than planned. However, working with everyone individually meant everyone got to have an intensive overview on how editing happens, and a look at how pieces of writing evolve during this process.

Since writing week, we’ve all continued working on the articles that we started. Check out the completed posts:

Running Buildkite Agent on Google Cloud Platform by Sam Cochran

5 ways we’ve improved flakey test debugging by Keith Pitt

Making Magick with Javascript by Jess Stokes

Things I would change for a future Writing Week:

  • More time spent as a group or one-on-one working on concept development.
  • More group brainstorming activities! These were really fun and we made good progress on the user stories as a group.
  • Possibly do the writing tasks in pairs. It’s a lot to take on, doing a whole article or piece of documentation in a week. Having one between two could make it more interesting for everyone, and help with writing block.

If you’re keen to do a writing week with your team, here’s three things to get you started:

  1. Work with your team to figure out what they’re interested in and what they might like to write about
  2. Have at least one full day set aside where people won’t have to think about any other work
  3. Make sure you have enough time for planning out the day/week’s activities before you start, there’s less time during it than you expect there to be

If you do a writing day or week, we’d love to hear about it! Our friends at The Conversation did a writing day after hearing about ours and were psyched with the results 🎉


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