Many people believe that the only reason to write is to demonstrate your cleverness or authority on a topic.
I personally find writing much more valuable as a means to think, to learn, and ultimately to understand.
Unsurprisingly, I find this kind of writing also the most interesting to read. Nothing is more engaging than reading the thoughts of a true novice seeking their way through a new endeavor.
Would you agree?
Ironically, this is not the easiest way to write. It’s amazingly hard to write by simply wandering down the page, exposing thoughts that are challenging you. It takes a fair amount of discipline and courage to write what you don’t yet command.
Point of clarification: No one wants to read your messy notes and complete disregard for the language. Writing to think is not a license to dump your scraps of confusion into a reader’s lap. Thinking, learning, and understanding is a process of refinement—a purpose-filled journey—your reader should see that polished account.
Give it a try.
Open up your favorite writing environment—Word, Evernote, Google Docs, even a legal pad will do.
Make sure you can write without any page constraint, that means writing in/on something that isn’t going to run out of room on the page.
This guidance is not to be confused with avoiding interruptions and distractions. These are okay and should never be an excuse to avoid writing. In fact, I often think these breaks help.
At the top of the page, write a question or statement that has been on your mind.
Use that as your writing prompt and start rambling down the page. Don’t pause to edit or refine. Insiders often call this Free writing.
Once you’ve given yourself the permission to think on paper the next step is to learn and explore what you were thinking. Maybe even more importantly, why it was on your mind.
Begin by rereading and questioning your prose. This often leads me to do a little research.
Having finished spilling out on paper, I recommend searching the Web for others that have written on similar topics. A quick Google search on the opening thought—the one you put at the top of your document—will quickly produce a river of others that are thinking and writing about your thought. Find the best and dig into their perspectives. Maybe even contact them to discuss the topic.
This process often adds clarity to rough patches or compels you to add more thoughts to your own writing?
Either way, you’re learning—moving your thinking forward.
Give it to a few collaborators. They don’t have to be experts, but that’s okay too, just someone who is willing to critique the work in an earnest way. They should be challenged to tell you where it lags, where they don’t understand, or where they’re not convinced.
Take all of this input as a means to better refine and understand what you’re thinking about.
You don’t need to come to a final conclusion or completely convince. You only need to satisfy yourself that you’re moving your thinking forward to a point of understanding.
At this point: Publish!
What are you thinking about? What do you want to learn? What do you seek to understand? Hit that plus (hover over there —>) and tell us.
Originally published on BillRice.com