Deciding to leverage your lived moments into wisdom, insight, and appreciation rather than choosing the passive habit of regurgitating op-eds or puffery means engaging directly with people and ideas. Forwarding a link or liking a post differs from thinking and creating. An active, original mind stitches together a swatch of learning here with our lived experience there to grow and serve.
When it comes to capturing, conceptualizing, and thinking through ideas, few approaches compete with the act of writing. Just as the wisest people I know read a lot, the most creative and thoughtful people I know write regularly as part of their professional or personal lives. In this post, I encourage you to take up the pen and write.
Three Reasons to Write
First, writing cultivates a fertile mind. For example, the simple act of journaling collects thoughts and observations and, when you close the pages for the day, allows them to mix and mingle while you trundle off to conduct your daily affairs. Then, when decisions arise, the wisdom and experiences captured in the journal have a way of synthesizing our experiences. The act of writing lets those ideas simmer, helping us gain wisdom distilled from our own lives.
This blog and my essays are exercises to refine thoughts and capture best practices. They force me to cull the nonessential and reflect on what works and makes sense with the goal of receiving and sharing insights. In this way, writing is a dialogue; it seeks a response.
Second, writing relieves the mind. At times, we get trapped in mental mousetraps, addictively griping over minor grievances, or stubbornly ruminating on things outside of our control. The writing process offers powerful medicine for thinking through a problem in a practical way without perseverating.
The physicality of typing or writing by hand warms ideas and mines the subconscious. It also provides a form of self-administered relief. In The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron recommends a practice of “morning pages,” which are “three pages of stream-of-consciousness longhand morning writing” that help us clear the mental detritus before taking on the day. Cameron notes that:
“…The morning pages…must be experienced in order to be explained, just as reading a book about jogging is not the same as putting on your Nikes and heading out…”
Third, writing armors you for battle. Regular writing sharpens your language and strengthens your communication skills. Great leaders and orators, from Winston Churchill to John F. Kennedy to Martin Luther King, Jr built their philosophies and communication skills through reading and writing. Gerald Ford, 38th President of the United States, said:
“If I went back to college again, I’d concentrate on two areas: learning to write and to speak before an audience. Nothing in life is more important than the ability to communicate effectively.”
Write stuff down. If journaling or letter writing are not your thing, at least carry a pen and notebook for meetings, calls, work conferences, and events at your kids’ schools. Write down ideas, lessons, and things you want to do. The writing process organizes ideas, identifies questions, and exposes holes. Your value as a thinker, regardless your field, will improve.
In sum, put pen to paper and build the writing muscle. You will use more of what you write, verbatim, than you ever could realize.