I’ve been thinking about Jerry Weinberg’s writing over the last few days, since his passing moved many including myself to words in his honour.
His words inspired me.
I know that I’ve dipped into the pages of The Secrets of Consulting many times over the years. I should probably, in the near future, take time to refresh my memory of the excellent advice that I know that tome contains. And I know there are many other books of Jerry’s that are worth reading or re-reading.
However, of all Jerry’s writing, there is one book that stands out to me. I was moved to write about it back in 2007 in a now defunct blog. Fortunately I have an extract of the text.
I introduced my post with a a reference to a picture of a beautiful stone wall in my back yard. Whilst I’ve lost the original photo, here is a fresh one of the same wall:
And here’s what I wrote:
What a beautiful stone wall! My family is now lucky enough to have this wall in our back yard. The bloke who built it is obviously a master of his craft.
What does our wall have to do with writing? The answer is to be found in Weinberg on Writing, a thought-provoking book about how to write using the metaphor of building a fieldstone wall.
Jerry Weinberg addresses the problem of writer’s block by showing how metaphorical stones can be continually collected. Each stone may or may not end up as part of a published work. The process of collecting stones typically contributes to ongoing work on a number of potential finished books, articles, reports or even blog entries. The trick is to always be ready to write. Carry a pen and notebook everywhere so that ideas can be readily captured. Later on the stones can be organised, perhaps eventually being crafted together in a finished wall to be admired. Or perhaps not. Stones may be thrown away during the editing process.
I think the Fieldstone Method employs a useful metaphor that keeps the writer productive. Of the many lessons in this book worth heeding my favourite is Jerry’s first: “Never attempt to write something you don’t care about”. After all, a fine stone wall is built by a master craftsman with passion. Writing should be similar.
Although I never met Jerry, that’s the lasting impression I have of him. Passion poured from the pages he wrote.
The software development community is very fortunate that Jerry has left such a wonderful written legacy. If you have a thirst for learning from a pioneer of a people-oriented approach to programming about topics ranging from consulting, becoming a technical leader, systems thinking, testing, exploring requirements and, of course, writing, amongst many others, I thoroughly recommend reading his books.
Jerry may be gone but his words will live on.