The Pains of Composition: How to write your best documentation in a collaborative world


Creating documentation is much more than just putting pen to paper. It's an outpouring of one's mind and soul onto a canvas. This is a challenging enough endeavor in private, and becomes increasingly difficult when writing is done in a collaborative environment where any team member can see, critique, and even alter your work.

Inspired by Leonid Pasternak's "The Pains of Composition/The Passion of Creation", this talk explores the challenges and power in opening up your creative process to collaboration with others. We'll talk about some of the difficulties we encounter, talk about how they affect us, and explore how we can overcome them to do our best work. We'll look at:

• Writing alongside a complicated spectrum of personalities

◦ I miss being the LONE documentarian...

◦ Prevention-focused vs. promotion-focused individuals

◦ The introversion vs. extroversion scale

◦ Leading (gulp) from within

• Building constructive feedback loops and fixing bad feedback

◦ Now EVERYONE has an opinion?...

◦ Creating an open dialogue built on a foundation of trust

◦ Constructive vs. negative feedback

◦ Modeling healthy feedback

• Developing a shared motivation and passion

◦ Who REALLY cares about the documentation?...

◦ Understanding your value as part of the team

◦ Forming a shared passion in the team

◦ Increasing and communicating awareness

• Thriving in transparency

◦ What happens when people can WATCH me work?...

◦ Being real with how writing ebbs and flows

◦ Pair writing and review, like finger-painting a masterpiece on a shared canvas

◦ It's not Big Brother, it's hand in hand teamwork

This talk opens a dialog around the challenges and fears we all face while collaborating on documentation within a team and gives direct steps we can take to help our teams – and work – grow stronger and better over time.

  • Conference: Write the Docs Australia
  • Year: 2020

About the speaker

Matt Reiner