17 March 2016
Writing allows us to clarify our ideas. When we think of a topic, say programming, our mind produces certain ideas. Those ideas seem coherent. We have an illusion of understanding. Writing gives those electrical impulses a visual form.
That's when we discover that some ideas don't match or that we have a whole in our understanding. Through writing we get the pieces of a puzzle out of our head. Once we have them in visible form, we can start working on the puzzle.
Writing allows us to become more creative. This comes hand in hand with point 1. When we see our ideas on paper, we can manipulate them more easily. Again, it’s the difference between building a lego toy in your head and building it from real lego parts. We can come up with new combinations, we can see right away what works and what doesn’t.
This comes to support point 2. above. To write effectively means to stop censoring yourself. We write to educate or to persuade. That means taking everything we know and piecing it together for the reader.
To make sure we get everything out, we need to not restrict ourselves. We need to put the criticism aside. The first draft comes from a creative, flowing process.
Of course, many of us have to make an effort to silence the critic. We have learned from school that we must sound smart. We also learned that we have to be very careful about what we say lest we will be laughed at.
To make worse, we might think we need to get it right from the first try. This particular belief made writing a constant pain for me. Fortunately, I realized that writing consists of several steps.
The first step involves getting the ideas out. This means we should not give a damn about form at this point. We care about getting the ideas out in a intelligible form. We are now taking the gold nuggets out of the mine.
The polishing part comes later. When I realized this, I had such a feeling of relief and release. It meant I could be creative. I could tell the editor inside my head to take a break.
Effective writing makes us better teachers. When we write, we write for ourselves but we also write for others. When we try to explain our ideas so others understand them, we learn the best ways to do that.
We write and get feedback and then rewrite until our audience gets our message. We discover that short words are better than longer ones. Short sentences read easier than longer ones. Stories drive the point home.
Writing has a therapeutic effect. Several studies1 2 3 have shown that writing can have emotional and physical positive effects. I assume that writing helps us clarify issues that cause emotional pain and also to unload and express those unpleasant emotions.