I have always had a love-hate relationship with writing. As a kid, my father was the first person to recognise that I write well and often nudged me to write more frequently but I couldn’t be bothered. One of the most important cool things to do in school was to participate in inter-school debates where you had to be for or against a given topic. I still remember fumbling to come up with a structured view point. And then of course, those prestigious essay contests like Commonwealth Essay where I aspired but mostly struggled and failed.
I had often seen my sister writing in her journal. At the age of 16, I thought I would give it a shot and was fairly consistent till a few years back. In my three years of studying history as my graduation subject, the structuring of thoughts and penning them down on paper got a major boost. Even after all that, my writing habit has generally sputtered before this. Elementum Money happens to be my third blog after starting one to pen down random thoughts following it with a food blog.
With my history, the point I am trying to make is that writing has not always come easy to me. But, doing it consistently has made me realise what a vital skill it is and how it can benefit just about anyone who gives it a shot.
Benefits of writing
While there are many benefits that are more specific to different kinds of writing, let’s look at some which hold true for all kinds of writing in general.
1. Helps communicate in any area of life
Written communication is an essential skill in almost anything you do. Be it writing emails at work or even to describe a harrowing experience to a customer service team. Especially today, when more companies are embracing remote working, writing well has become even more important. Once you practice your writing skills habitually, the improvement shows in every aspect of life. What you want to say starts flowing more effortlessly.
2. Promoted a structured way of thinking
When it comes to almost any subject, our thoughts can easily get muddled up. Writing requires a structured approach to put our thoughts down. As you write more, the process of organising your thoughts even mentally come more easily. This helps in breaking down complex concepts when you come across them. As Harvard Business Review puts it, Clear Writing Means Clear Thinking.
3. Writing cements things in your mind
In school, I remember a lot of teachers telling us to go home and write down what we learnt. While I may not have paid much heed to the advice that time, I have seen the impact of writing things down in two main areas. I have been journaling since the age of sixteen ensuring to mostly write down the good memories and a lot of those events in my life are retained better. In fact, I also try to write down travel logs after a good trip especially since I stopped publicly recording food experiences on my previous blog Bohemian Foodies. Secondly, Elementum Money was born out of a passion to bring out financial concepts in an easy, relatable manner. But, more than any person in the audience, I know I have managed to remember the concepts I learnt much better as I wrote them down.
4. Writing is cathartic
This may or may not hold true for everyone. For me as well, it applies more so to the sphere of my private journal. But at moments when I feel messed up with my mind and heart on a treadmill of unstoppable thoughts, writing comes to my rescue. In some ways, a blank page (physically or digitally) and a full mind are the perfect combination to imitate Dumbledore’s penseive of the Harry Potter series. My fingers start moving of my own volition and thoughts pour out unfettered. Once it’s out on paper, it’s out of my head. I may or may not retain that piece of writing, but for me writing is definitely a well-proven way of catharsis.
5. Improves imagination and focus
Why have I combined two benefits? To me, imagination and focus are closely interlinked. Only with focus and attention can you let your imagination wander productively. Writing helps with both. Good writing comes when you single task (Side note: plugging in earphones to block out ambient colleague chatter does not count as multi-tasking) and apply all your mental resources in a focussed manner. And then when you question the fundamental basis of writing, it is finally a world that you create on a white space. Put two and two together and you know that with a regular writing habit, better focus and imagination is a combo pack.
How can you start a writing habit?
Now that I have made a strong pitch for why you should hone your writing skills, let’s get down to business. For one thing is clear. If we always wait for inspiration to strike enough for us to write, we will never get to it. The key to improving your writing skills is to make it a regular habit and practice. How do you fight the shackles of inertia and laziness to really put yourself in one place and start this difficult task of writing? Well, have no fear, for I am here.
1. Know your why
We are creatures driven by motivation. Unless there is a strong pull to something, we are not going to stick with it. The first thing you could do is write a small statement of why you want to have a writing habit and good writing skills. Not only will it get you started on the path, but on days when you forget your why this will serve as a vital reminder and a nudge to get you back.
2. Start small
As Confucius is supposed to have said “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. In the case of writing too, start small. Maybe give yourself a target of writing just 50 words every day. This could simply be about what you are thinking or it could be about a passion that’s been brewing in your head. Gradually, as your comfort increases you may not even realise how the length of your written word does the same.
3. Take the help of online prompts
For me, the idea of waiting for something that gets my writing juices flowing was what led to the dormancy on my first blog. The blog was born while in college and the idea was to jot down random thoughts that settled in my head as and when that happened. Instead, sometimes when you are forced to think of something, the result is often surprisingly good. So, if you are not sure what to write about, here you will find great sources to spark off that latent creative writing muscle. For a more generic list that you can use as daily prompts for a year, these 365 pointers are pretty good too.
4. Read more and notice the details
With writing, a lot depends on the content you feed your mind to. That’s why most good writers devlop after a healthy diet of good-quality reading. Off late, I have started a habit of jotting down or copy pasting passages I like from every book I read. Yes, my list in that area is quite long and I may not get to read all the passages that I save up. But, just the act of noticing good writing, appreciating specific elements and selectively pasting them aside helps you register good writing and learn from it.
5. Understand what will keep you more committed
In some ways, writing also requires self awareness. As you embark on it, understand what helps you keep more committed. Do you feel good reading what you have written? Does it help you remember more or does it help you purge your brain from any unwanted thoughts? Does it make your mind springy after the workout, rewarding it with mental endorphins? Or are you after the more external indicators of people praising you which means online writing is what will make it last longer for you.
While I have written this ode to writing, this is in no way to say that it’s easy. But then most good things in life aren’t. Understand the good writing can get for you in life, commit to a regular writing habit and watch the magic of words flow.
Do you write? Have you seen any benefits of it? Let me know in the comments below.