In essence, writing is thinking, whether you do it on paper, on a computer, or even when sending a text on your phone. The more you write, the more layers of thought are peeled back to reveal deeper layers of thought. Writing unveils understanding.
One of the best ways I have expressed it is in a book I recently worked on with Jim Dotson entitled Taking on Goliath. The day after he experience an earthshattering termination from the job he had excelled at for fifteen years, he sat down to journal:
For about a half hour, I just wrote. One of the nice things about writing is that once something is on paper, you don’t feel the need to dwell on it any longer. One thought transcribed makes room for the one that was just beneath it before, the one you were previously oblivious to because the other was shouting so loudly. I often found, when I had the time to really sit down and write, that realizations would emerge that normally got lost in the noise of daily living. Ideas half-recognized took full form. From time to time I was even able to clear away enough of the clutter to recognize something God had been trying to get me to understand for a long time. As ideas emerged, I thumbed through the hard copy of my journal, looking at other times I had written like this, and what they had revealed. (Taking on Goliath, 101)
This “peeling back the onion layers of thought,” as you might call it, is just one of the benefits of writing to me. Here are a couple of others:
When the writing is hot—I am drafting away with my internal editor muzzled and in pursuit of the next layer of revelation—I am at my most focused. I am “in the zone” or “in the flow” as Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his book Flow. Though there are numerous other ways to get into this kind of focus, I find that sitting down, setting a timer or time limit, and then plunging into writing knowing that there is nothing else I have to worry about until the time is up is a great way to get writing done, exercise focus, and discipline my mind to think.
Writing (and Reading) Are a “Flight Simulator” for Living
Recent studies discussed in Forbes, Harvard Business Review, Scientific American Mind, and elsewhere suggests that by diving into the minds of characters in fiction, we find a way to better understand and empathize with others. The Psychologist called engaging with fiction, “The mind’s flight simulator” for “fictions are typically simulations of the social world, therefore . . . people who spend time reading them will become more socially skilled than people who read non-fiction.” Though the research has not yet gone this far, if that is true of reading fiction, how much more true is it of writing fiction?
Synthesizing Research and Experience
When you write on a topic—even if you are journaling—you are casting experience or research into your own words. Once this is done, you can look back at it later to analyze the accuracy of what you just put to paper. When I am writing non-fiction—which is what I do most of the time when writing—I find myself going back and forth between my sources and what I am typing, constantly double and triple-checking that what I am drafting is faithful to the ideas I hope to see shared with new audiences (as well as, of course, making sure I get the footnote information right!). Again, this is a honing process which I believe carries over to any other kind of thinking and teaching that we do.
Now these are just off of the top of my head and I am sure I will dedicate other posts to this line of thinking in the future, but, from reading this, are you getting an inkling of what writing regularly might do for you?
Do you have any “Aha!” moments that came while writing? Can you think of any ways that writing has made you smarter?
Please share your thoughts and answers in the comments below.
I’m ever the verbal processor and I find that unless I get “it” outside of myself (through conversation or writing/journaling), it’s not real… I often feels that I can uncover what I really feel, really think and what God is really speaking to me as I write! So, here goes… 🙂
Totally agree! Just like the Dawson Trotman quote Luke shared. Looking forward to what you produce next!
Great insights Rick! I always feel more clarity after spending time getting words on paper.
Dawson Trotman, the founder of the Navigators, said, “Thoughts disentangle themselves when they pass through the lips and fingertips.”
Oo! Oo! I should have used that quote! Thanks for adding it to the conversation! (Though, personally, I think it works better through the fingertips than over the lips.)
An idea coach …its brilliant…to stimulate the inactive overly entertained corralled lemming mind set …
To initiate intelligent productive interaction causing one to become engaged at a level that has mostly been lost through the mind numbing levels of sports and entertainment worship, and the superficial pond skimming of the sound bite and social media, that is encapsulating the generations.
I see this bringing a new Depth
Causing long given up dreams to be rediscovered, reignited and pursued.
Encouraging the destruction of fear replacing it with what pleases God…
Bring it on Rick, this will be an injection that stirs and brings back a quality of life that many have lost and because of that many have never known…
that might sound bold, but reading through your blog set me off, causing the beginning of an excitment & understanding of the potential of what you mentioned to me, regarding quality becoming the prime real estate in the digital community.
Wow! Thanks for the amplification, Owen! That’s great stuff. Here’s to great things coming out of this group and blog conversation!
Hi Rick! Great article! I’m feeling a bit inspired to write after reading that! Thanks! 🙂
I’m here for you, man! Bring on the writing!
One way that writing has made me smarter is the realization that I have arrived to the destination I put down on paper years ago. I have been journaling for twelve years. This now encourages me to write my visions and goals, which is the smart thing to do. I enjoy going back over the years watching today what I prayed for back then. I can write with full confidence toward my future. that’s smart!
Sort of Habakuk 2:2, heh? 😉
Writing out visions and goals is something I need to do more of!