Wabi-Sabi Writing

My limited understanding of the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi is that it is an insight in which you can appreciate the beauty in the imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete.

I don’t know about things you write, but imperfection, impermanence, and incompleteness are three qualities of most documentation. These traits certainly explain our documentation for Eucalyptus, the company I work for.

Eucalyptus is open source software for building Amazon Web Services-compatible private and hybrid clouds. Documentation for public clouds has really only been around for seven years. Private and hybrid cloud documentation has only been published for about four years. There are very few writers working in this area, but there is a lot of engineering going on that needs to be documented.

So, as one of the few writers in the arena, you’d think I’d be happy just being here. However, I have a confession: I struggle with trying to make a “done product,” even in an area like cloud computing. I long to create something that is permanent, perfect, and complete. On my best days, I realize these lofty goals are my enemy. On my worse days, I want to wait before I publish something that I’ve written, even if what I’ve written might be good enough, however imperfect. I want to polish and shine things until I deem them ready. In other words, I never want to publish.

You see, I’m bound by two opposing factors in my writing:

  1. I don’t like imperfection, impermanence, and incompletion in documentation.

  2. I have never written anything perfect, permanent, or complete in my professional life.

Number two probably won’t change. So I can either change my feelings about number one, or learn to live with it.

I’m not willing to give up the goal of writing perfectly, completely, and producing something that stands the test of time. However, I might be able to live with the fact I can edit and hone and further shape existing imperfect material that I write, in order to make it closer to what I can live with.

This summer, Eucalyptus will enable comments to our documentation. You can tell me on the web page what you find to be incomplete, incorrect, unclear, maybe too verbose. Let me know. Trust me: I know our documentation has a ways to go.

And I’m learning to be good with that.

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About scotmarvin

Scot is a writer for Oracle. He's a slacker and smartass involved in content strategy, content architecture, big data, cloud computing, and other buzzwords related to technical stuff. He loves his family, history books, jazz guitar, and the Minnesota Vikings. Scot is a proud father, so don't make the mistake of asking about his family unless you have four hours to listen to him ramble on about his kids.
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2 Responses to Wabi-Sabi Writing

  1. Pingback: Hey! I actually liked a conference! | Customers and Content

  2. Pingback: Ba-dee-ya, publishing tomorrow | Scot's Thoughts

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