“There is nothing to writing.
All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
~ Ernest Hemingway
Everyone is a writer. We write text messages, emails, letters, notes, diaries. Some of us write articles, essays, poems, and books. Writing is accessible to everyone and yet few dare to embark on a journey of true word mastery. I include this section to communicate a message that writing should not be perceived as a craft exclusive to the great, but rather as a tool of achieving greatness. I have firsthand experience with the transformational power of writing. It changed my life and I want it to change yours.
Let’s meditate on the three following questions:
- Why should I write?
- What should I write?
- How to write and get better at it?
Question #1. Why should I write?
Let me share with you a list of benefits you get from writing. The following are the reasons why I personally integrated writing in my life.
Writing is a tool for materializing your reality.
“The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.”
~ Ludwig Wittgenstein
Brian Tracy, a leading self-development expert and a globally recognized author shares his beautiful yet simple discovery: “The most successful people in the world are the people with the richest vocabulary.” This comes as no surprise. The quality of words determines the quality of thoughts. The quality of thoughts determines the quality of life. A solid belief that one is capable of acting in a certain way to attain certain goals, otherwise known as self-efficacy directly depends on self-talk.
As you can see, an ability to visualize and project a desired reality is a derivative of one’s capacity to manipulate language. There are few proven tools than can expand the latter. While reading remains the main means of lexical saturation, writing becomes that coveted training ground for learning how to utilize your vocabulary.
In the process of writing, I further consolidated one insight — a tongue is a sword. It is a formidable weapon in skilled “hands”, in incompetent ones it can, as Irish say, “cut your throat.” A precision of word affords remarkable opportunities, the lack of it may lead to a catastrophe.
Writing is the fastest and easiest way to endow your thoughts with a physical form. The more you write the more you see that the border between the realm of ethereal thoughts and a habitual physical reality is rather thin and can be easily permeated. As a manifestation tool, writing should never be dismissed out of hand.
Writing as a tool to learn a foreign language.
“He who knows no foreign language knows nothing of his own.”
~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
I started writing fueled by an ambition to perfect my English. My grandmother started to teach me English since I turned two. I have no recollection of myself at that age but she told me how she used to repeat both Russian and English words pointing at the objects in the room. I am forever in debt to her for bringing me up and cultivating respect for the English language. That respect has only grown as I started to consciously look for ways to further increase my degree of proficiency.
I understand that chances are the levels of mastery of truly great writers will forever remain beyond my reach as I am not a native speaker. However, it doesn’t stop me. I love English. I aspire to increase my capacity for this powerful language. I believe that ambitions breed excellence. Becoming fluent is no longer my goal, I want to be swift. I intend to become a true wordsmith.
Writing teaches you deep work.
There is a great talk between Stephen King and George R.R. Martin I stumbled upon online. While the first man probably doesn’t need an introduction, the second one is the author of “The Game of Thrones” (just in case you are a caveman like me who never read or watched anything from the series).
The whole talk is pure joy but I particularly loved one part of their dialogue. Stephen King goes: “George, we are going to have to wrap up this pretty soon. Is there anything that you’ve always wanted to ask me? Because, George, I will.”
George Martin chuckles: “Yes! Yes, there is something I want to ask you.”
“Alright,” Stephen leans in.
George Martin goes: “How the FUCK do you write so many books so fast?”
Both laugh. Martin carries on: “I think: oh! I’ve had a really good 6 months, I’ve written 3 chapters and you’ve…you’ve finished 3 books in that time!”
Stephen replies: “Here is the thing, okay? There are books and there are BOOKS. The way that I work, I try to get out there and I try to get 6 pages a day so with the book like “The End of Watch”, and I work. When I am working, I work every day, 3–4 hours and I try to get those 6 pages and I try to get them fairly clean. So, if the manuscript is, let’s say, 360 pages long that’s basically two months’ work. It’s concentrated but that’s assuming that it goes well.”
Take a moment to think about it. Six pages a day! That is insane productivity. How can he get this writing done? The answer is deep work.
Writing is a perfect activity for developing your capacity for deep work. It is cognitively demanding, it requires maintaining in a prolonged state of high concentration, it exerts the writer on deep thinking. Writing is also a great tool for training self-discipline. Hours of sitting in front of the laptop squeezing out words will definitely add up to your mental resilience.
Writing makes you a better thinker.
“Writing is thinking on paper.”
~ William Zinsser.
Writing is thinking on paper and that is the main reason why I got myself into it. Everyone with an ambition to become a more ingenious thinker should invest time in developing writing skills. Strenuous mental efforts to find an exact wording for a particular thought lead to improved control of the very process of thinking. Written discourse teaches you how to unfold your ruminations in a cohesive, sensible, and aesthetic form. Sharpening the ability to formulate your thoughts directly affects the power of your presence, your utterance, and your expression skills.
Even a superficial glance into the nature of thoughts is enough to see that we do not think in words. We think in images. During writing, the subtle mechanics of the mind starts to reveal itself — it becomes apparent how thoughts take up the form of words, how they move superseding one another, which words trigger certain semantic chains and emotions. You start to see how ideas can be rearranged, modified and agglomerated comprising a complex interplay. There is an indescribable beauty in conceiving how your mind works in depth.
Writing is a means of catharsis.
Writing is an instrument of introspection. Willingness to learn about your primal nature will lead you to a better understanding of your mental and emotional processes. In case of having unresolved internal issues be it existential angst or traumatic experience of the past, writing will help you to untangle your confusion around them.
Healing starts once you begin to disassemble your mind on the paper and with time, you’ll see which of the gears in your head are dusty, rusty, redundant or need replacement. Understanding which things inside of you need to be fixed is the first step to a peaceful mind.
Writing is a way to deliver value.
Every writing has a purpose.
Its purpose is to change the reader.
Writing needs a reader. Sometimes writing pinpoints a problem, sometimes it solves it, sometimes it inspires to stand up and look for a solution. Either way, writing is a key that seeks its way to the heart of another human being. Never underestimate the power of a word. It can touch souls. It can change lives. It can and it should. The mission of the writing is to transform both the reader and the writer for the best.
Writing is meditation.
Although writing in its essence is thinking, the effect that it exerts on a spirit is similar to the one of meditation. When you write you explore the flow of your thoughts. You watch how they convolute and fluctuate, you observe how they occasionally and uncontrollably come forth exposing the agitated nature of the mind.
Writing is decluttering of the mind. A thought captured on paper loses its power to hijack your attention. By freeing up mental space you instill calmness that can be compared to the serenity of meditation.
Writing is like building a sandcastle from the grains of letters, spaces, and punctuation marks that the surging sea of your consciousness throws in your hands. Sometimes a single press of the “backspace” key sends a wave that washes away a part of your castle. Sometimes you destroy everything you’ve been building for hours. You start over. You are not attached to the result. You lose yourself in the process. That is the beauty of this craft.
Writing is a means to stay humble.
“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”
~ Stephen King
In order to continue to grow in skill, one must constantly saturate himself with knowledge. By writing, I learn how to write. By reading I discover those to whom I silently applaud and whose craftsmanship I admire. I don’t let myself lose sight of the fact that I am not and will never be the smartest man, I am not and I will never be the best writer, I am not and I will never be the most erudite bookworm. It keeps me humble. But it also keeps me hungry.
Question #2. What should I write?
The writing can be integrated into your life in many forms that would only depend on your goals and your line of work. Here are some ideas.
“Monkey mind” journal.
Credit to Tim Ferris. This is a meditative form of journaling the objective of which is to write everything that comes to mind. Let your thoughts flow. It’s is almost like drawing doodles but with words. Write down all your worries, concerns, and negative memories. Spill them out on paper so that they vacate your head and do not bother you throughout the day. This type of journaling doesn’t have to be organized, it can be completely chaotic as it serves a single purpose — the release of the mental burden. Practice it daily and notice how it calms your mind every writing session.
Credit to Tim Ferris again. A gratitude journal is a form of self-reflective journaling the purpose of which is to help you focus on the positive side of life. Write about 3 things you are grateful for in your life daily. Keep in mind how your brain remains plasticity. The systematic practice of gratitude will rewire your brain bringing about tangible results within the first month.
Credit to James Altucher who is a staunch advocate of this form of solo-brainstorming. “Write 10 ideas every day,” he recommends. Although “idea-generating muscle” is weak at the beginning and the absurdity of the majority of your ideas will make you cringe, persist nonetheless. After all, you don’t need a bunch of smart ideas. You just need one great.
A diary is one of the most powerful forms of daily journaling that can be used for promoting self-development and putting further organization of your life in execution. Daily journaling is not only the best tool for introspection and visualizing your goals, but it is also instrumental in monitoring the process of your personal evolution.
Three questions can serve as the framework of your daily journal:
- What interesting happened today?
- What did I learn today?
- What are my goals for tomorrow?
The first question is for recording your memories, second is to control your progress, and the third is to outline the to-do list for the next day. Good bonus — by writing down your to-do list before bedtime you send a command to your subconsciousness to optimize solutions for your goals while you sleep.
Letters to Future You.
Write a letter to your future self using the web-service called futureme.org. It’s not only fun to read congratulations on your Birthday or a New Year received from your past self — these letters will help you to create a relationship with the future you who you now only set to become. Letters from the past will help you to self-reflect on the metamorphosis you undergo over time, meditate on your annual progress, and set new goals. This writing practice that will offer you some illuminating insights. Give it a shot.
“A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.”
~ Richard Bach
Launch a blog, write essays, dare to write a book. Explore the endless possibilities of writing. Everything from sharing your life experience to expounding your existential philosophy can become a way to develop and make use of your creativity. Creative writing is not only a great method to send your message to others, but also a way to capitalize on it if that is your strength. Good, not even great writers make money with writing. Why not you?
Writing is an excellent tool for building up your digital presence. Be it a personal or a company brand, it is in your best interest to let the world know about the value you produce in the form of a product or service. While selling is essentially creating an opinion, writing remains one of the most potent tools of doing it.
Question #3. How to write and get better at it?
These are the tips that I have picked up from professional writers and tested in practice.
#1. Understand the process of writing.
Writing is not the only thing that writers do. It consists of 3 distinct work-modes — ideating, writing, and editing.
- Ideating is a brainstorm. You write all your ideas on the paper for future elaboration. It can be as simple as a bullet list serving as a plan for future writing. You can add notes, quotes, and links to the materials that will be used in future work.
- Writing mode is the step when you actually sit and write. Although it is always preferable to produce “clean” writing, you shouldn’t overthink the quality of the text at this stage. The objective at this point is to elaborate a draft — the raw product must effectively communicate your message and be of adequate volume. Tweaking your creation can be postponed.
- Finally, editing is the step that takes place after you let your writing “rest and ripen” for a while. This stage includes polishing your writing, proof-reading, formatting, and bringing it to the final form that will be delivered to the reader.
The credit for the tip goes to Jeff Goins, an author and a founder of Tribe Writers.
Preparing the mind for writing is similar to preparing the body for exercise. A good warm-up is essential to achieve the most effective results. All forms of daily journaling or composing an answer on Quora is a good start. In case the only writing you do is your diary no warm-up is required, just write.
#3. “Breadcrumbs” method.
When I started writing, my mind was freezing every time I sat down staring at the blank screen. The more I hesitated the stronger my paralysis grew. In order to overcome my writer’s block, I have elaborated on an approach to writing. I call it a “breadcrumbs” method.
First, you start to jot words without any particular order. You catch a thought you intend to communicate and you write it down in the form of a keyword. Each keyword serves a single purpose — it should enable you to recreate the entire idea behind it. Write down as many keywords as possible, make sure you record every idea you want your final writing to contain. They are the “breadcrumbs” that will lead you through your narrative. Once you have a path mapped out, you can start to work through the keywords one by one unfolding the idea encapsulated in them into a sentence. As time goes by, sentences mature into paragraphs, paragraphs are juggled to form a coherent text.
The “breadcrumbs” method works well for me, it might as well work for you. Try.
#4. Show up.
“I show up in my writing room at approximately 10 a.m. every morning without fail. Sometimes my Muse sees fit to join me there and sometimes she doesn’t, but she always knows where I’ll be. She doesn’t need to go hunting in the taverns or on the beach or drag the boulevard looking for me.”
~ Tom Robbins
If you are an aspiring writer, this is exactly what you have to do. You show up and you write. Every single day without exceptions. Some days will feel like going through a “writing constipation” — you will struggle to squeeze a single word from your head, but that’s ok. Although writing something good remains the ultimate goal, the second most important thing is keeping the built-up momentum. In that sense, we can draw an analogy between writing and exercise — you stop working out for as little as 5 days and your muscles start to undergo degradation, you stop writing and the same thing happens to your writer’s discipline. On good days write something great, one a bad one just write something.
Measuring writing makes it so much more effective. Use simple metrics to monitor your writing progress: note down the time spent writing, hit a daily word count goal, publish online one article a day, etc. Set a realistic objective and design a ritual around it.
#6. Challenge yourself.
“You fail only if you stop writing.”
~ Ray Bradbury
My writing journey started as a 30-days challenge. My aim was to publish 30 essays on Medium in 30 days. I ended up publishing 43. The first 42 essays flew completely under the radar. It was the 43rd that became a “game-changer”. Finally, I had written something that created a long-awaited resonance. I started to get feedback. People from all over the world were contacting me saying that they liked my writing and suggesting that I should consider writing a book. So, here I am — a man who never thought he is capable of writing following through his hellish endeavor. The point is, this book would have never come to fruition had I quit after my 42nd essay.
In my past experiences of the previous 30-days challenges and every time I pick up a new one, I see a consistent pattern — at the beginning of a new challenge my skills never correspond to my ambitions. I am never ready before I start. At the start line, I am never a person who is able to follow through with a conceived plan. I grow into being that person in the process. I believe this is one of the most important things that are ought to be internalized. While any positive change is induced by the exertion of external pressure, the source of that pressure can only be internal. Growth is a choice to set yourself on the path of most resistance.
#7. Get it done.
I don’t know if I did a good job with this book. It’s for you to decide. All I know is that writing a book is not an easy thing to do. It is a massive undertaking for any author. I was afraid to make the first step. I hesitated. I didn’t know what to write about until one day I stumbled upon a quote that gave me the desired resolve:
“Write the book you want to read.”
~ Austin Kleon
At that very moment I knew, I want to read this book. Even more than that, I want to write it. I want to be able to give this book to a friend as a gift and feel authentic. I spent enough time fighting the “impostor syndrome” consumed by thoughts like “I am not worthy”, “I am not good enough to be a writer” or “no one is interested in what I have to say”. I am done with it. I will commit. I will keep writing because at one point of my life I came to realize something life-changing:
“The important work of moving the world forward does not wait to be done by perfect men.”
~ Mary Ann Evans
I keep reminding myself of that and I ask you to do the same. Use this mindset. If you have been waiting for the day you step into the spotlight to change the world with a written word, wait no more.
You are enough.
Say what you have to say. This troubled world needs you as you are.
Thank you for reading my book “Meditations of the Millennial”.
If you want to support me on my mission, please, share this book with someone you love. Maybe they will find what they seek on its pages.