Minimum viable essay 📄
What is a Minimum Viable Essay, anyway?
Does it have to be at least 500 words? What should be the subject? How much research goes into it? Should it have lots of references like an academic paper?
Why does this question matter
Most people who get started with writing wonder about the same things. Even though they might have views that others would love to hear about, they are not sure at what point to hit publish.
This was just as much true for me as well. When I did commit to externalize my ideas and write in public, there was no pre-existing well-formed habit within me for writing that I could leverage. It was all about starting from scratch.
An aside: my writing tech stack
For a long time, my speed-breakers were thoughts revolving around the 'how' of publishing online.
Thankfully, it hit me that that it is better to post a good enough essay today on a good enough site than to keep perfecting both for months. So I settled on a tech stack that prioritizes the following:
- least effort to publish
- focus on writing and nothing else
- least time spent setting up the tech
- bonus: markdown support
What is good enough
Getting back to the question at hand, what is good enough to be published?
What our audiences want from creators is some entertainment, answers to some of their questions and something to look forward to for the next time.
Doing this, we manage to bring them some joy, perhaps even a smile to their face. Everything else is truly beside the point.
Finding questions that need answers
As I'm still trying to figure out what 'good enough' means in my case, I continue to engage with people on social media and communities that interest me. This helps discovering what questions are people asking and which ones are challenging to answer. Then I proceed to write about learnings from these interactions and include a breakdown of thoughts on the subject for my readers.
The objective is to keep the writing direct, compact and relevant to the question that caught my attention. It helps to be mindful that I'm borrowing my readers' time and attention to present my ideas or narrate my stories.
If I manage to address even a part of such a question, stir up some conversations or even entertain someone while they read, then I consider the post to be an example of a minimum viable essay.
PS: This essay was 475 words long and that is why this postscript exists, to take the word count past 500; if not, then why even bother right?