In 9th grade I used to talk. A lot.
My photography teacher, who I was very close with — and who is largely responsible for my interest in photography — used to joke that I talked too much. He told me that he wanted me to consolidate my thoughts, and so he assigned me the homework of writing journal entries on various topics: famous photographs, artistic styles, and techniques. The assignments weren’t graded on anything other than completion. He just wanted me to go through the exercise of writing down my thoughts.
To my surprise, I loved that assignment. The journal entries themselves were little more than my transcribed thoughts and the writing was awful; however, the process was helpful. It forced me to think through otherwise nebulous ideas. Articulating something — either through speech or text — forces you to consider the details. It’s easy when thoughts exist only in thought-space to deceive yourself into believing that you understand something or that your idea is fully formed.
My photography teacher loved the assignment because it meant that I talked less in class. I loved the assignment because I found that it helped me form my thoughts. Also, once they were on paper, it was easy to revisit and rework them.
Recently, a close friend and mentor gave me similar advice. I was describing a recent idea for a startup, and he told me to write a blog post about it. I told him I didn’t particularly want to share the idea with the world, and he responded that wasn’t the purpose of writing a blog post. It was to consolidate my thoughts.
The act of writing your thoughts down consolidates them, gives you a way to share them, and a medium to manipulate them in.
I think ‘blogging’ (and when I say that I don’t necessarily mean publishing — Medium and many other blog platforms have the ability to let you share drafts without making the draft public) is awesome for a variety of reasons. Two of the most obvious ones are that it forces you to consolidate your thoughts before you share them, and it also gives you a way to share your thoughts with other people. This is why my photography teacher and college mentor both encouraged me to write my thoughts down.
The other benefit that I think many people overlook is that writing your thoughts down gives you a medium to manipulate them in. In many ways, writing something down makes it tangible. I can edit, rework, and rewrite a paper. No one tries to do complicated math in their head, and the same should apply to other forms of thought: write them down so you can think through and work with specific parts.
A while ago I got into the habit of writing down my thoughts as ‘blog posts’ on Medium. Only recently have I started to revisit and edit these drafts. I don’t know how many I’ll publish yet, but I thought I would share the process because it’s been valuable to me so far.