Writing actively transforms your ideas. Every article I have written hasn’t been a copying of ideas stored in my head onto this blog, but actively refining those ideas. Even ideas which I’ve had considerable experience and conviction get morphed in the process of writing. By writing down an idea you aren’t describing it, you are sculpting it, bringing it greater clarity and stripping it of internal contradictions.
Most people think through a process of self-dialog. This is a little internal conversation we have with ourselves. Ideas stream in and we respond to the thought producer inside our head. We use this little personal conversation whether we are trying to solve complex problems or simple ones. Hugely complicated ideas and decisions are run through in this little exercise of internal dialog.
Writing is Thinking
But self-talk isn’t the only form of thinking. Writing is an active vehicle for thought. Instead of an silent lecture to yourself, writing your ideas forms another vehicle for exploring the ideas within your brain, and often it is a far more effective one. Every complex decision I need to make, I work through in my own journal. Every idea I have is explored through writing.
Few people have really organized thinking patterns. A stream of one idea is constantly interrupted with a flow of new input. Emotional inputs also tend to wrap around on each other, cutting off areas of the brain that could provide solutions. When you are depressed, thinking your way out of it rarely helps because the thought cycles are trapped by the emotions. Like a computer program that executes an infinite loop, it can’t escape until it crashes.
Writing is Grounding
Writing down your ideas gives you an anchor to hold onto. The last thoughts that you have had are now preserved as a record on paper or a computer document. You can use this anchor to retrieve your progression of thoughts whenever a new idea comes in. This anchor allows you to explore new solutions and work out the problems that you intend to solve.
Even if you think you already know an idea, you don’t have a clue until it is written down. Our minds can only conscious between five and nine pieces of information in short-term memory. Like a computers RAM, this information is our working memory and can barely hold more than a handful of inputs at a time. Without writing your idea down, how can you possibly expect to uncover it. Trying to think through an idea is like trying to figure out what the Mona Lisa looks like by using a microscope. You won’t see the big picture.
Writing is Clarity
Nobody wants to be a hypocrite, but most of us are – when it comes to our thinking patterns. We believe we are being logical and rational, but our ideas contradict each other. We believe in health but then take another bite of that greasy food. We believe in compassion, but then scold groups that don’t share our value system.
Writing out your ideas is like organizing your filing cabinet. You’ll eventually pull out documents that give conflicting information. When you see this you can correct it. When you put it back in your filing cabinet, the information is unified.
Internal contradictions ruin your attempts at growth. One day you see yourself committing to a new goal and the next you’ve completely abandoned it. Finding out where your thinking patterns don’t line up properly can allow you to fix any discrepancies and run with all your mental powers directed ahead.
Writing is Creativity
Insights and solutions aren’t flashes of a lightbulb, they are a slowly building bonfire as pieces coalesce. Writing down your thinking pattern places those pieces together, often in ways you hadn’t considered before. As amazing as writing is for boosting creativity, few people actually use this tool.
The solution to virtually any problem can be answered faster and more creatively by writing it though. What you should do with your life. How to get more money. How to be happier. How to improve relationships. How to commit yourself. These questions and millions of more may seem vague and impossible in your head form answers surprisingly easily when you begin to write.
Writing is Permanence
Thoughts are intangible, vacuous things of little substance. Feathers floating on the breeze of consciousness, they dance around but are never fixed. Writing ideas gives them a home. Writing an idea gives it a chance to settle down and attach itself to something outside your head.
Writing forms commitments. Goals often live or die based on the written word. The written word has no power other than it exists. A commitment to yourself is far more likely as a piece of writing then as a thought. Thoughts may get lost and forgotten, but a written word always forms a record.
Writing is Enlightenment
Forget hours of meditation under a tree. Writing is a practice in self-understanding and understanding the universe. Much of my philosophy for the nature of reality, life and the universe has come from writing out the ideas I have. Existential questions of life and reality are perhaps the most complex and difficult problems that can often be understood through writing.
Pick up a pen, pencil or keyboard. Start writing today. Write to solve problems. Write to understand. Write to plan. Write to commit. And because there is usually so little of it, write to think.