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Content Creation

November 16, 2023

The Art of Documentation

Kevon Cheung

Founder & Head Teacher

So a big part of this month for me is running Build in Public Sprint. It is very exciting to create a sandbox and have a bunch of like-minded people going after the same goal.

From the sprint, I had the opportunity to see a lot of show-your-work type of posts and how sprinters document their thoughts and ideas.

Now, why did Gary Vaynerchuk's "Document, Don't Create" become such an important topic in our content-driven world? And why is it so hard for so many people to document?

I want to use my observation to explore this with you today.

80% of the hard work

If you've followed me for a while, you know I talk about open kitchens or omakase a lot. Yeah, let's keep using the food-related analogies!

When I think about documentation and content creation, I see ingredient preparation and cooking.

Just imagine you already have the ingredients in the fridge. You just open it, take a look, and then you usually have a good idea of what to cook.

But what if you don't have any ingredients? It is impossible to cook!

This is exactly like content creation. The reason why it is so hard is not because you can't write or tell stories. It is because you don't have the stories ready. So what do many people do instead? They sit in front of their keyboard and think about what to share — they end up writing a platitude, a piece of advice, or a random thought, something very unspecific.

And it is not surprising when there aren't a lot of people paying attention to their posts.

If you document well, you've done 80% of the hard work in content creation.

When you have ingredients at home, you'll be cooking and not ordering food delivery. Win!

Don't ideate yet

I have been reading a lot of documentation documents from the sprinters and I noticed one thing.

Instead of capturing <a long list: a thought, a lesson, a reflection, a feeling, a moment, a photo, a screenshot, etc.>, basically things that happen when you're working on something, many sprinters already jump to thinking about that "exact idea" they want to put out on social media.

They're not documenting. They're ideating for content. They are totally different.

Skipping the documentation step actually makes it really hard to create good content because all the important ingredients are missing.

What makes the long list I wrote above so good is that they're real. They're the facts. They're the stories.

So later on (on a separate step) when you pick from them, you are creating a piece of content so unique that no one else can do.

Again, why do many people write platitudes or thoughts without context? Not because they live a boring life or they're terrible at sharing. No. It is usually because they don't capture the specifics of their lives.

Can you just sit in front of your keyboard and bring these stories back? I know I can't. I barely remember what my wife said to me 5 minutes ago 😅

Find your easiest way

Everyone has their own preference when it comes to capturing a thought, a lesson, a reflection, a feeling, a moment, a photo, a screenshot, etc. I don't want to force people to do it a certain way.

If you like to type words down, sure! Here's ​my free 5-part system​ and I like to use Slack Mobile. If you prefer to speak to your phone quickly, what about using ​AudioPen.AI​? If you don't have more than 1 second, what about snapping a photo?

What I'm trying to say is that you have to find out the easiest way to do it and then practice, practice, and practice. You have to be honest with yourself because they are your thoughts, feelings, and moments. You simply write them down in the purest form.

I'd say an achievable goal for you is if you can jot down at least 10 things related to what you're working on every day.

Embrace the waste

I know. You probably feel like it is a time-consuming routine and you don't have the time. "Oh what? Most of the ideas won't become publishable content?" Now you're even more frustrated.

The sad truth is — you basically have to get rid of this thought ... if you want to use content to drive your growth and business.

If you can have an abundant list of ideas in your documentation, it means that the 20% that get published are the super winners. The other 80% is your broccoli. What?

(Fun fact: I like broccoli because it is a great side dish. It doesn't care about the spotlight)

So while 80% of your ideas would never see the light of social media, they're taking on the supporting role to make your 20% so good! Without them, you don't have the winners.

More so, this documentation routine makes you such a strong entrepreneur and storyteller because you're always reflecting and noting down the facts and stories.

This is why Gary V said "Document, Don't Create." Because you don't really have to do much to create once you document well.

Do you know how a personal brand is built? Yup, using personal stories.

So start capturing them all the time now!

This is also why Documentation is 1 of the 6 main modules in my program, Build in Public Mastery.

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Table of Contents

My 5-Part System

Creating content can be a heavy lift but if you can break down the process into smaller steps, it is a lot more enjoyable. In 5 mins, I’ll show you what the 5 steps are.

Download for Free

My 5-Part System

Creating content can be a heavy lift but if you can break down the process into smaller steps, it is a lot more enjoyable. In 5 mins, I’ll show you what the 5 steps are.

Download for Free