Always complete, never finished




Often, the easiest part of work is doing it. The hard part is knowing what to do.

The documentation writer who has sat staring at a blank page wondering how and where to get started will find this familiar. A large documentation restructuring project can have exactly the same paralysing effect.

Facing a project large enough not to be completable in one go, and that won't have much value until it's actually complete, we often feel we don't know how to begin. Complex projects lure us into creating frighteningly complex plans, that we draw all the way to our envisaged finish-lines. The next thing we know we are staring at a mountain of our own making.

It's a trap! It's by no means exclusive to documentation, but we documentation writers fall into it particularly hard.

I fall into it often. I see colleagues and clients do it too.

We fall into this trap because we confuse the finished with the complete. The way out is to understand that, as a living project, our documentation will never be finished, but can always be complete.

Understanding this gives us:

  • several practical, immediately usable strategies and techniques for tackling jammed documentation projects and starting out on new ones in ways that keep the work flowing
  • a general approach to documentation that helps steer us around the trap, and climb out of it more quickly
  • an incremental, evolutionary way of working on large documentation tasks that makes every step, from the very first one, a value-adding improvement

Above all, it turns the paralysing question of knowing what to do into a liberating act of deciding to do, by making it easy to act.

I'll discuss all these with real-life examples, and aim to leave the audience with a handy mental tool-kit that will help them the next time they find themselves facing the same trap.

  • Conference: Write the Docs Portland
  • Year: 2021

About the speaker

Daniele Procida