On Blogging: ‘I learn by writing’

Steve O’Grady just posted a link to a story at IBM’s developerWorks site (dW): building tools to support software development teams. The dW article is by Bill Higgins. Bill works for IBM’s Rational division, and says in part:


This reminded me of some something interesting that Grady Booch once said. I asked him how he went about acquiring new knowledge, to which he responded “I learn by writing”. This seemed paradoxical, since I always considered writing a way to inform others rather than a way to inform yourself. But Grady made the point that writing forces you to crystalize your understanding of the topic. This crystalization occurs for two reasons:

  1. you must perform research to ensure accuracy and depth
  2. the process of writing forces you to serialize fuzzy thoughts into coherent sentences and paragraphs.

So, if there’s some topic that you want to understand better, consider writing an article on it.


Steve picked the tag: “I asked him how he went about acquiring new knowledge, to which he responded ‘I learn by writing’.” – same here, big time.

As you may know, my daughter Jen just graduated from Yale, one of the great institutions in the world. I cannot say enough good things about it. I think we both fell in love with it during our first visit back in October of her junior year in high school. It was clear to me from the start that it emphasized direct teaching by all the faculty to the undergraduates above all other things. We visited other schools tool, some quite well known, but I never left any of the others believing their faculty and administration had the same priority.

During Jen’s first few years at Yale I was still at Research, and I often stopped by to chat with a colleague, Dave Grove. He’s a Yale graduate. I once asked him what his Yale education meant to him. He said,

Yale taught me how to write.

What more can anyone ask of a university? Tom Friedman has asked and answered that one: one of his daughters is a Yale student.

That’s one reason to blog. It forces you to write.

My wife is a reading teacher. She put up a sign in her home workspace a few years ago. I believe it’s a quote from Eudora Welty. I may have the words wrong (and I know Jen will correct me if I did, but as I recall, it says,

I write what I say so I can read it to learn what I think.

Copyright (c) 2006 by David Shields. Licensed under the Apache License 2.0
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One Comment

  1. Posted September 28, 2006 at 09:37 | Permalink | Reply

    love the quote, but have to note that Welty’s regrettably right to say that. her prose is thick enough that you have to read it repeatedly 😉

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