There is no more effective method for organizing your thoughts than writing. Good writing is one of the most important skills that you can develop.
That’s because for writing to be of any use (even to the author), it has to be organized and sensible. This means that when you write down your thoughts, you impose order on them.
Once you impose this order, you’re one step close to taking what exists in your mind and manifesting it in the physical world. I can think of no more powerful process than this. Writing is, in the purest sense of the word, alchemy.
I don’t think people appreciate how wonderful it is that all non-naturally occurring things we see in this world were originally only plans and dreams in someone’s mind. Writing is the bridge between the realm of imagination and the domain of the real life.
Why it’s so important to write down your goals
The mere act of writing down your plans gives them form in the real world. Although the form is only 2 dimensional potential, it acts as a lightning rod for all of the kinetic energies required to make it a reality. If this sounds too mystical or esoteric for you, I’ll present this idea to you in a more practical manner.
I have a whiteboard in my den. While I’m working on one project, I often have lots of ideas for things to do in the future. I also remember deadlines that I have to reach in the present.
It’s much easier to write those ideas down on the whiteboard rather than try to remember later or stop working now. If I tried to do that, I’d lose the energy that I’m putting into whatever I’m working on. As long as I later revisit the notes I took, then I’ve captured lightning and I can make it available for later use.
Writing skills free up mental space
Speaking of “catching lightning”, this highlights another reason why you should improve writing skills.
The average person forgets many more ideas than they ever remember. If the ideas are forgotten, then this means that they can’t be acted upon. By writing the ideas down, these flashes of insight and reflection are captured for later use.
Many of us have had that nagging experience of forgetting something that felt important at the time, but we couldn’t bring ourselves to remember when we needed it for later use.
Well, when you get the habit of writing things down, you improve your ability to retain ideas–even the ones that you don’t write down. This will happen naturally, if for no other reason than you’re starting to free up mental space by writing other things down.
Excellent writing improves your communication skills
The skill of writing forces you to slow down. It forces you to be deliberate.
In speech, you’re pressed to keep pace with the conversation and exercise a certain level of mental agility that while sometimes advantageous, keeps you from thinking deeply and formulating the most appropriate response. When you sit down to write, you have all the time in the world to find the best words and the best combination of those words to express yourself most clearly.
It’s for this reason that writing should improve your ability to speak.
As you take the time to improve your ability to express yourself with the high levels of accuracy and precision, you’ll find that you will also be much better able to speak on the fly. I think the reason for this is that when you deliberately practice putting together words in an effective manner, you simply learn (via experience) the best communication patterns. Those patterns become instinctual.
Effective communicators are effective writers. Effective writing is powerful because communication can be a force that causes things to happen.
The more precise your communication, the closer your eventual reality will resemble what you’re trying to accomplish in your mind. Writing allows you to continuously refine and polish your message, choosing the words with the most impact to use at the right times. There is no substitute for this practice.
Good writers have strong critical thinking skills
Even with podcasts and streaming video services, writing is still the best way to share your experiences and thoughts about a subject. This is because it’s impossible to read something passively.
Reading and comprehension always require engagement with the material in a manner that forces you to think about it. This is not the case with video or audio.
I think back to a debate I once had with someone. Their argument was that there’s no difference between reading for two hours and watching netflix for two hours because two hours has passed with no actionable steps taken. While this may be technically true, you can zone out while watching a show on Netflix. It will be–most actively–a distraction or–most passively–one level above white noise as you fall asleep to it.
It’s impossible to read a book AND zone out or fall asleep. The moment you close your eyes, you stop taking in information from the book.
You can’t draw any meaning from the words without focusing. This means that reading even the worst book automatically demands concentration from you. This means that writing will also be an effective medium for transmitting information. It’s impossible to read something without at least engaging in some mode of critical thinking, even if it’s just to determine the sensibility of what is being said.
Good writing skills make you mentally tougher
If you want to do anything with your writing other than express your thoughts, then you have to share your writing. Sharing your writing does two things for you: it gets you to face your fears about being criticized and it exposes you to criticism. This is an important right of passage for anyone who wants to build a following.
While I don’t think that writers should aim to be as popular as possible, if you wish to do writing as anymore than a private means of expression, you must eventually face public scrutiny. No matter what people say about your writing, the best of advice I can give you is this:
They aren’t investing in building a body of work and taking the necessary risks to grow. You can be rest assured that they wish they had the courage to do something like put their writing out there. As the musician Gnarls Barkley once said in his hit song “Crazy”, My heroes have the heart to live the life I wanna live.
Writing for money is a bad idea. Fame though, not so much…
The worst reason to write is for money.
Maybe you’ll make a little bit of money from your writing, but it’s highly unlikely that you will live off the sales of your writing along. However, it is now very easy to build a small level of local fame via visitors to a website where you host your writing.
While this means learning SEO, posting on various social media platforms, and building an online presence, the single best way I’ve discovered to build a following is this
Write for humans. That’s it.
All SEO and marketing boils down to taking advantage of what makes a person find something engaging. If you can trigger that in your writing, then you’re well on your way to having a tremendous impact and building a following.
You won’t need to stuff your pieces with keywords to the point where it sounds awkward, nor will you need to dumb it down so that it’s more palatable to a wider audience. You won’t need to focus on the hottest topics and trends, nor will you need to write about things you have no interest in simply because they’re popular topics.
I find that true artists have a hard time selling themselves and their products. The old cliche of a starving artist is true, but only because the artist (in this case, the writer) thinks that they’re somehow dishonest or misleading to use.
Trust me when I tell you that if your writing really comes from the heart, there is someone out there who needs to read it. The only way they’re going to find it is if you learn the basics of marketing, promotion, and building a following.
In the end…
Ultimately, I think you should write if you have something to say.
Your personality will steer you towards the appropriate genre for your expression or whatever idea you feel is important enough to put out in the world, but if you’re called to share your experiences and perspectives with people, then you have no choice but to write.
To do anything else is to deprive the world of your unique perspective