November is PragProWriMo (Pragmatic Programmer Writing Month)!

november prag pro wri mo

It’s the first of November, 2011, the start of Pragmatic Programmer Writing Month, a.k.a. PragProWriMo!

nanowrimo crest

The idea for PragProWriMo comes from NaNoWriMo, which is short for National Novel Writing Month. Started in 1999, it’s an annual creative writing project in which participants try to write a 50,000-word novel during the month of November. According to Wikipedia, NaNoWriMo started modestly with 21 people working towards writing a novel in a month, but grew to 200,000 participants writing a total of nearly 3 billion words in 2010.

Ten years after the first NaNoWriMo came the first PragProWriMo, which was proposed in a blog entry written by Daniel Sternberg in the Pragmatic Programmers’ old blog, Pragmatic Life. In the blog entry, he wrote:

It’s time to write that book you’ve always wanted to write.

We’ll start together on November first and in thirty days or less you’ll know if you are meant to write a book or not. Your commitment is to sit down every day and write pages. They don’t have to be good pages—they won’t be great pages—you’ll have plenty of time to fix them later. Keep writing.

Less than a month to find out if you can do something you’ve always wanted to try. Such a deal.

I’m not saying you will finish the book in thirty days nor that what you write will be worth publishing. I’m saying that by December first you’ll know.

pile of papersYou’ll have a pile of pages or you won’t.

On one hand, if you don’t, then you are one of the many people who wants to have written a book but doesn’t want to write a book. There’s nothing wrong with that. In a month you’ll know if that describes you or not.

On the other hand, you might find that you love writing. You’ve got something to say and you love the hard work it takes to craft words into sentences, sentences into paragraphs, and paragraphs into passages that people want to read. Then you are meant to write a book. You won’t be able to stop. You still might not be able to publish your book, but that doesn’t keep you from being an author who has written a book.

In between those two hands are the vast majority of us. We write when the planets align. We have blogs but weeks or months might pass between our posts. We can participate in this month of writing by posting a solid blog entry every day for the month of November. Then we might go back to the once in a while or we might continue.

If you’re a developer and have been looking for a way to stretch yourself, improve your communications skills and expand your career opportunities, PragProWriMo offers a structure by which you can do so:

  • You can take the pragmatic approach and write a blog post every day in November. Although it’s simpler than writing an entire book on some aspect of programming or technology or writing a 50,000-word novel in a month, it’s still an undertaking that calls for a lot of work. The time and effort involved in daily blogging is considerable; in my own experience, it requires about an hour per post, longer if it includes code or step-by-step tech walkthroughs.
  • You can write a book on some aspect of programming or technology during the month of November. A novel-sized technical book might be too tall an order for a month’s worth of writing, but a smaller book with a limited scope – say, an introduction to metaprogramming in your favorite dynamic language, a collection of tips and tricks for Git or a gudie to getting the most out of your Shopify shop – would be within the realm of possibility.

writing like the wind

Creative Commons photo by Anne-Lise Heinrichs. Click the photo to see the original.

To help you on your way, the Pragmatic Life blog offered a set of articles on writing in the month of November 2009:

During the month of November, I’ll post articles about writing. Give it a try, even if you only write a blog article or two – you might find that it pays off in ways that you never even imagined.

It’s November 1st: get writing!

This article also appears in the Shopify Technology Blog.