Writing, Marketing, Programming, Designing

Posted by on Aug 22, 2011 in Blog, Writing

So I have a confession to make: I do more than just write software. I know! Gasp, right? I’ll bet no one was expecting that! Yeah, well it’s true. Per my previous post, I’m also a (published) author, a marketer-of-sorts, and in addition to programming, I’m also reasonably well-versed in design. I’ve designed more websites than I can count, I did all the cover art for my book, did the PDF layout for the actual printed book cover, did the interior book typography and layout, all the way down to deciding how to format the chapter headings and whether or not to put italics on the page numbers at the top right/left of each page. Ta da!

Lest this turn into a self-promoting, self-congratulating garbage post, I should probably get to the point why I’m listing all this: To succeed in today’s digital world, I believe you need to learn to do more than one thing. Hit the jump for more…

When I was a kid, I was going to be a scientist someday. Then a writer. Then a movie director. Then a computer programmer. Given my proclivity for pushing plastic keys and messing with calculators, the latter came pretty naturally. But then college: the computer engineering program I entered was focused on compilers and shrink-wrapped software; this whole ‘internet’ and ‘hypertext’ thing seemed a bit faddish. But that’s what I¬†was interested in. So I switched to English where, not only did I get to read books and write, but the profs there were actually psyched about HTML — they saw it as a new future where everyone in the world would read their manifesto on “British colonial attitudes between the years of 1862 and 1864.”

Yeah, so, fast-forward to today.

Film industry is changing.

Music is changing.

And now publishing is changing.

Not to mention newspapers, magazines, and everything else related to the printed word. So the question you have to ask yourself, as a programmer, or a writer, or a graphic designer is: am I learning new things that will help me leverage my top skills in other verticals (to use some biz-speak)?

To come at it another way — you can do one of the aforementioned things, and that’s great, and you can probably get people to pay you to do it. But if you’re a programmer, why not learn to write and kick out a self-pubbed book on programming related to your particular specialty? Or polish up some design skills: at the least, learn some color theory and basic front-end HTML 5. If you’re a graphic designer, you damn well better be learning HTML and CSS or you’re sunk as the ad agencies all start going digital/interactive. If you’re a writer and you’re still poking your typewriter and ignoring the world of social media, internet publishing, and design, then you’re going to end up spending a lot of money paying guys like me to do stuff for you when you either (A) self-publish or (B) your Big Publishing publisher tells you “do the marketing your damn self because we’re cutting budgets.”

And I’m not saying that this secondary or tertiary skill you pick up needs to be polished to diamond clarity. You don’t need to become Mario Llosa to add some oomph to your programming skills. You don’t need to become Van Gogh to learn to make website designs that are better than this. And you don’t need to know the ins-and-outs of Ruby’s eigenclass if you want to improve your ability to do internet marketing for your book.

But you do owe it to yourself to push the boundaries of your comfort zone and go beyond your expertise. It will pay off in dividends.

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