We’re going to take a quick break from politics for this week’s segment, and instead I’m going to touch on one of my favorite topics: writing.
As I've begun regularly writing for Odyssey, one of the simple perks has been the added accountability as a writer. I've long considered myself a writer, but the truth is that I struggle to be consistent at getting those thoughts into written form. The thought of having a weekly article due for Odyssey changes all that. It means that on a weekly basis, I have to have something (written) to share. Not only do I need to have an article in written form, but that article is going to be published - it’s not just sitting in a notebook that I alone will read. Writing something that's "good enough" for me, and something that I want to share with everyone else.... well, let's just say that one pushes me harder than the other.
I think that the habit of regular writing shouldn't just be saved as an exercise for writers, in fact, I would go so far as to say that the habit of writing is one that everyone should cultivate. Sure, I'm a writer. Writing is especially important for me, but I think that the act of writing is a valuable habit for everyone.
Writing serves two huge purposes: First, it helps us to articulate our thoughts, and gain a better understanding not only of what we believe but also why we believe it. Secondly, it helps with self-examination, not just the art of understanding our own thoughts & ideas, but reading over past writing helps us to see where we've come from & where we're going. It helps us to see and appreciate the trajectory of our life.
Let's explore these ideas in detail:
1. Articulating Thoughts
Quite frequently as I write on an issue (be it in a journal, an essay, or even a story,) I find that though my opinions or ideas are coherent in my mind, I have difficulty articulating them on paper. In fact, the moment I commit them to writing, I find myself realizing just how inadequately developed they are. The act of writing is the refining fire. It's the system through which I take my abstract and partially coherent thoughts and ideas and turn them into fully developed thoughts and opinions. Going a step further, sometimes the act of sketching it out makes me realize that my premise is wrong, and I'm forced to go back to the drawing board. Every time I take the time to write out my thoughts, I find they become far more coherent and complete.
2. Self Examination
The second benefit of regular writing, is the ability to review thoughts, ideas, and experiences. Too often, memory is a tricky thing, but when it exists in written form it is easy to 'go back in time' and relive moments & ideas. Every time I pull out an old story, read essays or old journal entries, I learn something about myself. I understand not only what kind of person I was when I wrote that, but I can see how things have shaped me from that into the person that I am today. The ability to (quite literally) read my own thoughts & review my own ideas have helped me to identify strengths & weaknesses, to help me understand why I may think a certain way about certain topics, or make the decisions that I do. It also helps me to see progress; to look at where I was, and how far I’ve come, and how far I have to go.
Writing has definitely been a valuable part of my life.
With all that said, writing is certainly work. Hard work, even. As Ernest Hemingway famously observed:
“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed."
Writing is an inherently uncomfortable activity because it forces us to articulate our thoughts and ideas. The vague explanations we give ourselves simply won't do when it comes time to commit them to paper. Writing gives us the opportunity (and occasionally forces us) to take a long & hard look at ourselves. It’s hard work, but it’s worth the trouble.
The writing doesn’t have to be complicated - it can be something as simple as journaling. The main point is to consistently translate thoughts & ideas from your head and onto paper. I think you'll find that once that's done, the benefits come naturally.
Did you write today?