If you’re thinking without writing, you only think you’re thinking. — Leslie Lamport
Words have a longevity I do not. — Paul Kalanithiz
This week I explore the benefits of writing, how writing helps you think, and how writing is a great creativity enabler. I’ll also cover how I write and the tools I use.
✍️ Writing is thinking
I wrote specifically about why I’m writing a memoir in Saturday Blueprint 21 on Writing Your Story so check that out if you missed it.
Writing is not the result of thinking, writing is thinking.
To write more is to be more, to feel more, to see more. In many ways writing is like constructively talking with yourself. An open conversation with your inner self.
Because writing is a form of expression it improves my own understanding of what I’m writing and helps organise my thoughts. Ultimately then it improves my ability to express what I think and feel, a great benefit when a lot of the time we go around not knowing what it is we want or hope for or are scared of.
You’ve got to understand what you’re writing about, at least on some level, so writing in some way is cognition. The paper, virtual or not, extends the surface area of your cognition. You’ve got more room to manoeuvre, more runway. Think of when you work out a tricky maths sum - it’s much easier when you can write down your working as you go. Another example is a simple shopping todo list - it’s much harder trying to keep in your head vs the improved extension of your brain by writing it down.
As we write and as we think we make mental associations and connections. Little sparks of understanding of how this thing reminds you of that thing. As you’ll see when I share the tool I use for writing this can be a feature of a digital tool. In any case, making connections between thoughts and ideas leads to knew ways of understanding and often some original ideas too. This harks back to the Zettelkasten Method which I’ll have to write about in the future.
In terms of how I write. I keep that simple. I commit to making writing a daily habit, and it’s part of my morning routine. I tick off each day I write even if it’s just for a few minutes. My only goal is to write; I don’t set an arbitrary time of word count. I flip around between exploring different topics, often having up to a dozen pieces on the go at any one time. This is also a ‘hack’ for making it as easy a possible - if I have a bunch of topics in progress then there is more chance that one of them will take my fancy when I sit down and write.
Writing is the best tool for thinking. So what is the best tool for writing? The tool that gives you least friction to write a little each day. For me I use logseq, a markdown-based note taking app. I do 95% of my writing on my phone. Not because that’s the perfect tool but because it’s the easiest tool. A huge feature of logseq is the ability to “connect the dots” with the bidirectional links, this makes it so natural and organic to relate ideas together.
🎨 Writing is creativity
Creativity, whether in writing or in any other area, is a process that involves action. You’ve got to do something to be creative.
I’ve previously shared my haiku in a 100 days of haiku challenge. Now this is a purely creative endeavour. There is no apparent benefit from writing haiku. But the process of doing it is a small action towards opening my mind and creating the environment for creativity.
The beauty of creative poetry like haiku is that there is no right answer. Or rather, they are all the right answer, since the answer is in the writing, not in what is written.
Writing is a creative process with no wrong answer.
You might say that, like art, it’s value is found in the eyes of those who see it. And with enough eyes, someone, surely, will see the beauty. But that’s not quite right, there is no ‘eye of the beholder’ that matters, it’s more fundamental than that. The value is in the process itself. The very act of writing makes you a writer.
It doesn’t matter if anyone reads it. This blog for example is hardly ever read - thank you if you’re reading this 😊 - but that’s ok. I’ve already gained my value from the practice of doing the writing.
➕ Other thoughts
The two reasons above on thinking and creativity are the main reasons, but there are a few other points worth noting.
The first is that writing is a habit. Just like a physical bicep curl, a daily mental workout - putting the reps in - is a bicep curl for your brain. It’s a small but doable moment of discipline each day, to work towards something that matters to you.
The second is that there is little, if any, downside of writing, but the potential upside is large. It could be that in writing there is some idea breakthrough or aha moment. Maybe you’ll get tapped up by a publisher, or a long lost friend will reach out to you having read your words. This is a classic asymmetric situation - where the downside is small and fixed and the upside is essentially unlimited. I’ll write more on this too in the future because there is a fantastic book on this called Antifragile and it’s a fascinating topic area that really makes you consider your actions.
It’s a pleasure writing to you. Have a great week. 😊
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