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I need advice from people who might understand where I'm coming from. I'm the lead engineer on a software product. The company I'm working for recently expressed serious interest in having me blog about it (much to my dread). They even had someone set me up a blog.

I have Asperger's disorder. I'm really good at taking complex software problems and finding wonderfully elegant solutions. I don't know the first thing about writing interesting and engaging text. Writing for me is a difficult problem, one that doesn't have a defined solution.

I'm really struggling with this and it eats into a lot of time I could spend getting things done. I love the company I'm working for, but I'm worried what it'll mean if I tell them I can't do it.

I don't know how to tell my employer that what they are asking for is something that's totally beyond me.

Help or advice anyone?

Update

Thank you everyone! Wow, such great responses, lots of great advice!! It was very hard and took a long time, but I was able to do it. I'm going to stick with it a bit longer in hopes that it gets easier (the first post is probably the hardest, because it sets the tone and such). Thanks for the kind words, all the advice, and even for the kicks in the pants!! =)

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closed as primarily opinion-based by gnat, GlenH7, MichaelT, Bart van Ingen Schenau, Robert Harvey Oct 24 '13 at 20:44

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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You might even enjoy it, and start to get people being interested in what you write. The Problem/Solution style blog suggestion is probably a great way to start as its close-to-home so to speak. –  Nick Bedford Oct 13 '09 at 23:35
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You could also think of it as adding comments in your code :)... nice short blurts of information –  fudgey Oct 14 '09 at 0:55
    
I like to think of writing as a challenge and attack it like a problem. "What should go here? What would sound the best there? I bet if I structure my points like this, it'll convey information more clearly." Think of this as a problem, and solve it! –  Stefan Kendall Oct 14 '09 at 2:29
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Can you just tell them no, sorry, you don't want to spend your valuable work time trying to think of something to blog just for the sake of it, and that's not in your job description anyway (unless, of course, it is)? A lot of people have difficulty saying polite but firm no to a request from their boss. But you have to draw the line somewhere, and you will get more respect if you do. –  Dale Halliwell Oct 14 '09 at 12:13
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I don't want to criticize your self-criticism, but you wrote a coherent and clear description of your problem. Lots of people can't do that much (including a fair number of SO questioners). You may be selling yourself short. –  David Thornley Oct 14 '09 at 21:50
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5 Answers

up vote 164 down vote accepted

You might not like this, but don't use asperger's as a crutch. What you've written here is clear and succinct, so you've shown you can write prose. It doesn't have to be good, or even interesting to anybody but yourself, but just spend some minutes a day writing something about something.

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Greg - I agree somewhat but it IS devilishly hard to write for someone who has Aspergers symptoms. I am not a clinical case (I have many symptoms though) - and although I can be a fairly good writer when I want to / have to, it take hell of a lot out of me. –  DVK Oct 13 '09 at 22:46
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@DVK: Writing prose takes effort for me too; I certainly appreciate the difficulty. –  Greg Hewgill Oct 13 '09 at 22:54
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You should ask your employer if they're looking for a particular kind of style in the blog. If the style of your question is okay with them, I would encourage you to give it a try. For many people, writing gets quicker and easier with practice. –  Bob Murphy Oct 13 '09 at 23:35
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Well, here's the point. He's NOT saying he'd write badly. He's saying it is extremely difficult, causes a lot of anxiety, and takes a whole lot of time. It makes sense that if you torture yourself over a couple paragraphs for a few hours the end product might be good. While I agree that people should always push themselves to do more (including the uncomfortable), they are personally the only ones who can decide what is and is not simply too much. –  darron Oct 14 '09 at 13:13
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For many people with ASDs (inc. myself), "just write something" is a recipe for a freeze. For some reason, "just think something up" doesn't really work in the autistic mindset. This is IMO the root of the "lack of creativity" in autism. Trying to push someone into being creative is only likely to make the problem worse, basically because the stress response is an emergency thing - solving problems is useful in emergencies, but thinking up arbitrary ideas isn't. Too high general stress levels may even explain why the issue exists. –  Steve314 Jul 2 '11 at 23:55
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Consider the following:

  1. "I have aspergers disorder" No one cares. Seriously. If you've written any good code, we don't care about your personal life. If we knew you, we probably would care. However, we don't know you -- we only know your writing.

  2. "I don't know the first thing about writing interesting and engaging text". Neither do 85% of the bloggers I read. No one cares. Seriously. if you've written any good code, we don't care if your text is not "interesting or engaging". We value factual and helpful.

  3. "Writing for me is a difficult problem, one that doesn't have a defined solution." You're wrong. It has a defined solution. Simplicity, clarity, accuracy, and a good fit with other people who are simple, clear and accurate. Read Knuth or Dijkstra or Wirth. Copy their style.

Get over it. Share your insights. Help other programmers.

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At the end of the blog post, the name is just a name. Not a "person" with a personal life narrative and issues to overcome. Look at all the blogs you read. Seriously. How many of those writers do you know as a person? A writer is their words, not their personal life history. Hiding behind a personal life narrative is a cop-out. I am intentionally harsh because the question is an attempt to hide behind a personal problem. –  S.Lott Oct 13 '09 at 22:59
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#2 and #3 - 90% of the time if your company wants you to write a blog, they are not doing it to help other programmers. they are doing it hoping that you include a lot of keywords that will enhance their Google positioning in your particular industry. –  mmc Oct 14 '09 at 2:32
    
@mmc: Don't assume. Ask. This should be part of a communication plan, the result of executing a corporate communcations strategy. –  MSalters Oct 14 '09 at 9:05
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Look, the internet doesn't care... and there a name is just a name. However, this is not some nearly anonymous blog TO HIM. His employer wants him to write, and what he writes would certainly affect his employer's and coworkers' impression of him. While your #1 and #2 points are true from the point of view of an average internet user, I think they're quite wrong in the context of his personal associations and relationships. #3 is also IMO wrong. The solution space for "simplicity, clarity, accuracy", etc might as well be infinite. –  darron Oct 14 '09 at 13:27
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I disagree with #3 quite strongly. One guy's simple is another guy's confusing. Writing is nothing like math, where if you got the right answer you know it and no one's preference or opinion can make the good answer suddenly become bad. That's why writing is an open-ended problem in the eyes of someone on the highly structured end of the neurological spectrum. What you don't seem to acknowledge is the absolute truth that, for some people, no amount of training or willpower can significantly reduce the anxiety associated with the lack of a predictable determination of correctness. –  Darryl Oct 21 '09 at 4:48
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maybe do a "problem:solution" type of blog. present a problem you faced at work (could be very low level "got this compiler warning" or high level "had to design a system for x") and explain how you solved it.

It will be a good reference for yourself, and others may also read it.

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That's what I do in my blog: it's primarily a reference work. Some posts are solutions to problems that don't seem to be elsewhere on the net. Other posts are the results of research I've done. There's little in the way of opinions - the net is already too full of opinions, in my opinion. :-) –  Bob Murphy Oct 13 '09 at 23:22
    
(shameless self promotion) that is what i do on /my/ blog as well. I started it when i found out that some problems pop up every year or so and i never really remembered how i solved them last time.. now i have 100 pageviews a day and first link in google for some questions... –  Nir Levy Oct 14 '09 at 22:09
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As a developer with aspergers myself, I know where you're coming from. As others have pointed out, your writing skills seem up to the challenge. What others may not realize is how long a person with aspergers might take to generate that. I sometimes take hours writing a couple of paragraphs, trying to be sure I communicate precisely what I intend to communicate. If that isn't a problem for you, blogging might actually be a great activity for you. Even if you do excessively deliberate on your writing like I tend to, it still might be a good activity, a good chance to do something akin to socializing, but with structured boundaries.

If I were in your shoes I would ask exactly what they want to get out of the blog, then write a couple of sample posts. Track how much time it took, then convert it to dollars. Show the person in charge what you came up with, and how much it cost. If they think the post you show them is worth $300 (or however much) of your time, fine, go for it.

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Yes, this is a very simple way to approach the problem. While it may somewhat emphasizes a weakness... which may not be such a great idea... it's probably the most reasonable course of action. If it does take him a very long time to write blog entries (which I strongly suspect), and he does it on company time... that will come out eventually and may be quite bad for him if they think there's no way they would have wanted him to follow through if they knew. –  darron Oct 14 '09 at 13:35
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Blogging, unlike a book or a column, is for you and not for someone else - if you realise this I think it will reduce your anxiety level a lot.

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Not always. Sometimes company-sponsored blogs are a hidden form of corporate marketing communications. You have to find out beforehand whether the company really wants spontaneity and candor, or just different versions of "W00t we're having a great time writing X it's so cool working here we have a pinball machine u need to buy it when we ship." –  Bob Murphy Oct 13 '09 at 23:41
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If blogging is part of your job duties (formally or informally), then it is not for yourself. –  Dave Sherohman Oct 14 '09 at 7:43
    
Yeah. If he doesn't want to write and his company is pressuring him to... how can that be "for him?" –  darron Oct 14 '09 at 13:29
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