How blogging has affected me, as a neurodiverse person
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This will be a little spoiler for a couple of slides for my talk, but is only a small portion of the whole talk, so don't feel like you need to avoid reading this to avoid spoilers for my talk!
Something I've had on my TODO list for a while is to write about how blogging has affected me with respect to my neurodiversity. For those that aren't aware, I was diagnosed with ADHD Inattentive Type last year, and am currently pursuing an Autism diagnosis.
Since 2016, I've been blogging on this website, and over the years have been steadily increasing the posts I've been putting out, across various topics in tech and my life. If you're interested in the full breakdown of the data, please do check out my "site in review" posts.
Half way through 2017, I started writing my posts under "blogumentation" - writing blog posts as a form of blogumentation, which I definitely feel was a turning point in my blogging journey, and led to me really starting to take advantage of my blog.
I often wrote these posts as a way to write the blog post I wish I'd stumbled upon when first encountering the problem, or at the very least leaving a trail of breadcrumbs for the next person trying to solve a similar problem. Sometimes the posts would have a good chunk of preamble for why I was trying to do something the way it was, but sometimes it ended up just being a "here is how you view the contents of an X.509 certificate" with an example of commands to run.
I found these useful because they'd allow me to have a quick reference to come back to in the future, as I'd inevitably forget the exact incantations of commands to run, as well as allowing me to send a URL to a colleague or friend given my posts are public, rather than on an internal wiki. (Aside: just sending links to folks to attempt to solve their problem doesn't work for everyone)
Looking back on this in hindsight, I've realised that this may have been a coping mechanism for my ADHD. Because I have gaps in my memory and ability to retain bits of knowledge - as well as the fact that as humans we can't remember all the information all the time - I've found that writing a blog post is the perfect way to retain that knowledge. It's something that's searchable, has a set of distinct tags on my site that I can look for, and instead of needing to remember how to do the thing, I can just vaguely remember that I may have done the thing before. And if I've not done it, I know that I can write one once I've solved the problem. I've found it's a much better system, and reduces the overall set of information I need to retain at a given time.
Although I don't describe my ADHD as "a superpower", I think I'd say that my blogging is the closest to a superpower I'd probably have. It's honestly been such a force multiplier for me and the way I approach things, and has led to me having a really effective way to manage my knowledge in a sustainable way.
As well as my own blog posts, I will save and tag other folks' posts on my site where they've helped me, so I have additional sources to look at for problem solving.
I've got to the point that I'm now able to crank out a blogumentation post pretty quickly - depending on what level of code or setup is required to demonstrate what the post is explaining - and I've gotten comfortable with not always writing the most polished post, but focussing on something that's "good enough", which I know is hard for many folks.
In recent years, I've noticed that when I've hit something that I think would be a good blogumentation post, I can hear my mind starting to write the blog post in my head, which makes it easier for when I'm able to then sit down and write the post.
There have been times where I've stayed up late to write the post before bed because I couldn't put the laptop down until it was done, but once it's done I'm then effectively able to completely forget about it.
On the flip-side of this, I've definitely had times where I've not written up the post and then it's led to me finding it really hard to disengage from it, unless I've at least written some thoughts down in my notes app, lest I forget them.
I can absolutely become a better communicator and writer, but I love that I'm able to leverage this as a way to help my brain disengage from problems, help future me (and others in the world) solve the problem again, and have a record of the problems I'm solving and solutions that can help others.