Writing is a Tool

Many people think that writing is all about getting your message out into the world. People write so that others can read. After all, that’s what we’re taught in school, right? We gather ideas and put them together in a format that will elicit high marks from a teacher. We’re asked to demonstrate some form of reflection in those academic pieces, but are those reflections raw conclusions that we’ve drawn, or are we just writing what we think the teacher wants to hear.

Sometimes while working on those papers, we realize our thinking goes down a completely different path than what we’re supposed to be writing. More often than not, those thoughts just get pushed aside in the desire to just wrap up the paper. What would happen if they were captured in a reflective journal for future pondering? What would happen if we gave ourselves permission to think for ourselves over material we’re working with?

I sometimes forget that a large part of why I started blogging after having an online journal for a year is because I wanted to record what I was seeing and react to it. I wanted someplace to store all of the advice I was repeatedly giving out to friends and family. I really just wanted somewhere to record the thoughts stuck in my head in an attempt to get them out of my head before they were lost. (Why didn’t I do any of this with my online journal? Mostly, it was because I never took that online journal seriously.)

Getting ideas out of your head and into some other medium makes it far easier to work with them. You can share the stories lodged in your head without being there. You can organize and reorganize research and plans without worrying about forgetting something (unless you accidentally delete something). Writing is a tool that allows you to focus, but also enables you to share.

Start with a simple spiral notebook and write down everything. Don’t feel compelled to impose a structure on it (unless you feel more comfortable with structure). If low-tech isn’t your way, then there is some great note-capturing software (including my favorite, EverNote) to help you record and organize your thoughts to your heart’s content.

This post triggered by Rosa Say and Joanna Young.

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