You Should Write Regularly
A personal story of the benefits of writing and how I started.
I’m not going to tell you that you should write every single day, nor am I going to list out reasons that would make my arguments general enough for everyone. This is merely a story of how I believe my passive writing has helped me in the last year.
It’s not uncommon for people to have daily writing recommended to them. History has been written in journals and there are probably hundreds of more reasons why it’s good for all of us. But in my time writing and even “thinking of writing,” I didn’t think there was any really compelling argument about why we should or shouldn’t.
In fact, I searched it up, and this is what I got:
Google showed me results with varying arguments. Some people would argue that unconstructed writing produces too many incomplete thoughts and works, while others would argue the opposite, that getting into the practice of writing would help spark ideas and provide structure for habitual writing and thinking.
What all these arguments had in common was that they were targeted at writers, novelists, people that wrote for a living or wrote to achieve a final product. There are mentions of Hemingway and Stephen King, etc.
But, I’m arguing something a little bit different.
I’m not a writer and I don’t think I’ll ever profess to be. The longest thing I’ve written is in academia, and that was never too exciting. Up until about November of last year, I still didn’t write regularly. I’d try to force myself to write in my blog, or I’d try to physically write in a journal. But as many habits do, it trailed off.
So like many others, there was just no way of getting me to sit down and write what was on my mind (even at a minimum). What I did instead was had lunches, dinners, or casual conversations with people, which was where I would do my “documenting” or unload of what was floating around in my head.
The problem with these talks is that, while they’re inherently fulfilling, they’re fleeting. They’re temporal, in a sense. It’s the same problem I dealt with when traveling. I’d refuse or forget to write in a travel journal and as a result, I’d lose context of small details of the trip - all the nuances that make my trips so much more meaningful. And just like my quick chats, much of the detail is lost soon after the trips were over.
So I write. I write because it’s hard to remember everything. I write because it’s become a relaxing habit. I write because it’s private. Yeah, all my writing today starts as a private note. Too many people are afraid to write because of the time commitment or the resulting discussion. It’s an increasingly large problem due to the growth of the Internet and privacy. We no longer really ever find ourselves alone. And it’s because of this I choose to write privately first - with the option to share if it’s what I would deem a shareable thought.
So why write?
- Writing helps with my recall.
A short note or even a few paragraphs will help me collect my thoughts and important moments throughout the week so **I can revisit and recall important details much more quickly**.
When I used to work at an agency, the “Sunday evening prep” was what I’d do to jog my memory for the following Monday. But writing, in this context, helps separate your personal life as well - avoiding clumping both work and personal thoughts together in normal conventions like to-do lists or task manager bullets. It always felt a bit more casual.
2. Writing keeps me in check.
Everybody falls into a rut, where certain feelings of dissatisfaction, unhappiness, or a lack of fulfillment may surface. I use writing to help manage these feelings. When I’m done writing a piece, I’ll tag it with the mood or the feeling.
If I continue to consistently feel a certain way or a mood, I can reference back to the elements of the week or the month that have lead me to the rut and I can fix it.
As a practice, if there is ever anything that I’m unhappy about for 7 consecutive days. I’ll confront it.
3. Writing helps me share my thoughts.
Sometimes nothing feels better than belting out a series of run-on sentences. Do it. Nobody’s judging.
It’s been an experience of mine that when my thoughts are written out, they’re likely thoughts that I’d like to share. Perhaps not with the entire world, but a select group of friends or family.
And with writing, it’s so much easier to share these thoughts.
4. Writing helps me communicate in real life.
It’s true. Over time, my writing has developed characteristics and a tone. It also doesn’t hurt that when I write, it always sounds more elegant and put together. I choose words that I wouldn’t use daily, which slowly sneak their way into my conversations.
It’s also a source of content from which I can quickly pull references, which make me quicker both on a personal and a professional level.
5. Writing is rewarding.
Just like going to the gym, I feel like writing is rewarding. When I finish a post or an short entry, I feel accomplished. It’s simple.
No one likes going the gym, but it’s the feeling after that we all strive for. Writing is the same way. It leaves me accomplished.
How did you start?
I swear, it was just one trip to Peru and Day One that got me hooked.
1. Take baby steps. You don’t have to write a short story.
Writing in physical journals got tedious. It became a chore - much like writing long posts feel like today. But because Day One was an iPhone app, it almost felt like I was texting a friend or writing a short email. I never constrained myself or pushed myself to writing a certain amount. It was a stream of consciousness.
2. Pick your tools wisely. Day One was my buddy.
I learned my lesson once in the past while traveling in China and I lost a journal. It was devastating and I vowed to make better decisions - so I looked to the cloud. With syncing and Wi-Fi/Network everywhere, using a service like Day One that both stores content locally and in the cloud put me at ease.
Even in the mountains of Peru, when I thought I lost my phone, I could rest knowing that I had weeks of travel safely waiting for me when I reconnected to the network. (But the lost iPhone was still a problem.)
Losing all my writing would have been reason enough to quit writing for a while, but having a good backup system helped keep me on track.
3. Couple it with another habit.
Maybe after you check email in the morning or at night. Or maybe couple it with something as habitual as brushing your teeth. It was always easier to remember to do something when it came after a well-engrained habit.
I profess to not having this problem, but Day One’s desktop application and push notifications on iPhone and iPad helped to keep me on track on days where I may have wanted to write a quick sentence.
Props to Day One, and props to making it easier and more comfortable to write.
The most important distinction is that my kind of writing is casual and should not be construed as formal in any way. It’s a habit and a tool to improve my productivity and something that I think many people could benefit from.
Writing has helped my memory, it’s made me happier, and given me a sense of pride in a habit that I believe is hard to crack. If you don’t already, I think you should give it a try.