PRE-S: Early bird registration for Simple Year 2018 is now open! Spend 2018 with all of your favorite simplicity writers, one month at a time.
Flash back to my sixth grade English class and you’d see my teacher handing back one of my first written essay assignments. You’d see me look over the single page to find it covered in red ink, noting that the assignment “requires paragraphs” and needed “significant work.”
I felt my stomach sink and I remember wanting to disappear under my desk. I certainly wouldn’t have bet a dime that decades later, I’d be earning a living with writing like I am today.
To be fair, I had typed up an entire page of stream-of-consciousness writing made up of four or five run-on sentences and a total of zero paragraph breaks.
That night I booted up my Windows 95 computer, opened the Word document, counted off four lines each and hammered the return key all the way down the page to create the paragraphs my teacher had requested. I don’t think that’s exactly what she was looking for, but that’s not the point.
All of this to say, I’m probably the last person you’d ever expect to be writing every day (and actually enjoying it).
The problem is that most people think writing is for, well, writers. If you don’t have dreams of writing one of the next bestselling books or having your blog posts read by thousands of people all over the world, why on earth should you be writing every day?
I’ve also heard many people say that they don’t write because they don’t feel like they have anything to say. Minutes later, one of those same people completed a four and a half-minute monologue about why potato pizza shouldn’t be a thing. I’m just saying, we all have something to say about something.
Despite these common beliefs, writing has proven to be one of the best intentional living practices and I urge everyone to give it a try—and here’s why.
1 / It’s Great Practice Breaking The Twitch
Even though I write six days per week, I still get the same feeling every time I open a new blog post and have nothing on the page in front of me. I get the urge to check Facebook, my email, Twitter, my phone, and literally anything else that isn’t typing words on the blank page I’m staring at.
One of the most effective methods of breaking the twitch is intentionally practicing in situations where you’re likely to be more susceptible. Not getting distracted by your phone is easy when you’re busy or otherwise occupied. Put yourself in a position where you will experience discomfort in a controlled way and let the blank page be your practice canvas.
2 / It’s A Foundation Of Creativity
When I sit down to write, I never know exactly what that writing is going to become. It might be a blog post, a newsletter, a concept for a video, or any other myriad of things. What starts as writing can quickly become anything you want it to be, but most of these pursuits start with sitting down and jotting out a few ideas.
I started doing videos on YouTube because I didn’t feel like I was able to express myself as well through my writing. That doesn’t change the fact though, that all of my videos are outlined or conceptualized through writing before I set out to make them. Letting some ideas pour on the page is one of the best ways to spark creativity in whatever medium it may become.
3 / It Helps Gain Clarity
Someone very important and famous once said, “You don’t write because you have something to say, you write to find out what you have to say.” Or, something like that. The point being, sure, sometimes you’ll feel inspired by a really bad burrito you had at Chipotle and run up against the 1,200 character limit on the Yelp review form.
Every now and then, that sort of thing definitely does happen.
More often, you’ll sit down with an idea in mind and begin exploring it as you put words on the page. You’ll be surprised to find what comes out when you show up regularly and start putting words down in front of you.
As a perfect example, I had only thought through up to this point in this very blog post before I started writing it. I came up with everything below this while writing as my thoughts were jogged by the process.
4 / It’s Effective In Clearing The Mind
For most of us, there’s a lot going on up there almost all the time. Writing allows us to get those ideas out into the world whether we choose to share them or not. Your writing may never see the light of day, but knowing that something you thought up is written somewhere allows your brain to start connecting the dots elsewhere. It’s like taking a picture of something you decide to declutter from your home, it helps to know that there will be a record of it somewhere if you want to look at it again some day.
When I write, my brain relaxes as if it were finally assured that those important ideas would no longer potentially go forgotten. The anxiety that comes from an idea had and lost slowly fades into the past—it’s a beautiful feeling.
5 / It Improves Ideas Exponentially
While putting consistent words on the page each day, you will have the opportunity to identify patterns and connect ideas. I’ve always struggled with keeping all of my ideas organized in my brain and I don’t know if I’m just particularly bad at it or if it’s simply hard to do. By writing regularly, you’ll be able to build upon your learnings as you go.
As you connect ideas from past writings to future ones, you’ll become a better writer as well. If you choose an amount of words to write every day, you’ll literally be practicing every day even if it’s just a little bit. Not only will it completely knock out “writers block” (which I’m convinced isn’t a real thing), but any time you have to write for an assignment or a work project, it won’t be nearly as intimidating. You know how to sit down and write, so you just… start.
6 / It’s Helps You Get Comfortable With mistakes
Good writing is about writing regularly, but great writing is all about rewriting regularly. If you feel like you don’t know how to say exactly what you’re trying to express, just put some words down and get some ideas on the page.
Imagine writing as a sculptor might sculpt her next piece of clay. Trying to write a perfect sentence is like that sculptor shaping a nose when there is no head to put it on. How should she know how wide to make the nose, how big, tall, etc?
Get the clay on the table so you know what you want to change, you can work the shapes and sizes when you see what’s in front of you. In the same way, get the words out on the page and you can mold them to your liking on the second and third way through. Get used to making mistakes and writing imperfectly, because it’s the only way to get to the result of the best writing you’re capable of.
I may not be the most skilled writer in the world and I don’t believe I desire to be—but writing has become a core part of how I spend my time nearly every day. It aids in every aspect of what it takes to be a creator, instead of a consumer.
Even if you’re not a writer, I highly recommend that you try daily writing as an intentional living practice. Start with a small goal of writing for just 10 minutes per day or try targeting 100 words per day. It doesn’t have to be a lot, but it does have to be consistent to see all the great benefits that can come from it.
You can take it from me, the unlikely writer, that it’s absolutely worth the effort required.