9 Ways To Improve Your Life By Improving Your Writing, Part 2

This post is part two of a three-part series.

While yesterday’s entries focused on what writing well can do for you, you don’t need to be good at writing to benefit from it.  Today’s three reasons explore ways even a poor writer can use writing to meet personal and professional goals.

4.  Writing Can Help You Achieve Your Goals.  A lot of personal development advice out there focuses on setting goals, variously called dreams, resolutions, and habits.  However, in order to set your goals, you must articulate them.

“Articulate” is an interesting word.  It comes from the Latin word articul?re, which means to “divide into joints.”  So the verb form means both “express or speak clearly” and “unite by forming a joint or joints,” according to Princeton University’s WordNet 3.0 (qtd. on Dictionary.com).

Understood in light of its etymology, articulation is a key part of the goal-setting process.  Writing, in turn, is the key to articulation.  We need to express clearly the life to which we aspire.  We also need to think through the goal’s benefits, quantify our plan of action, and envision the end result.

We need, in short, to articulate: to divide our goal into natural segments – joints – and to attach those segments – steps toward our goal – to each other in a way that makes sense in our lives.  Writing is the classic vehicle for this kind of intellectual work.


5.  Writing Tempts The Muse.  Writing out your thoughts – even those ordinary, pedestrian ones – increases your chances of having a great idea.

No one really knows how genius happens, how inspiration strikes.  It’s as if your mind’s creative faculty is a great big machine, full of dials and buttons, whistles and valves.  Every once in a while, a buzzer sounds and a great idea rolls down the conveyor belt, but there’s no predicting the frequency.

The only thing I know for sure is that the machine has to be running.  And that’s what frequent writing does.  The writing itself may not produce anything worth reading, but whether it does or not is not important.  Writing keeps the creative machine running, so that when you’re sleeping or taking a walk or walking your dog, great ideas will come to you more often.

I don’t know why it happens that way – I don’t know how that crazy machine works – but it definitely does work.  Keep your Moleskine at the ready.

6.  Writing Helps You Recognize The Important.  Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin said, “tell me what you eat, and I’ll tell you who you are,” giving rise to the popular paraphrase “you are what you eat.”  The same is true of writing in that what you choose to write about reveals what you spend time and energy thinking about.

If you were to write about your day-to-day life in a journal, even a one-sentence journal, it would reveal what is at the forefront of your mind, right?  Then if you reviewed those entries, you might see patterns.  Some of them you’d be proud of (like caring for your family), and some you’d likely want to change (dissatisfaction with your career, for example).  Recognizing a pattern you’d like to change is the first step toward changing it.

Using writing this way allows us to look at our consciousness over a period of time rather than at a given moment.  With heightened perspective, the broad outlines of our often-chaotic lives become clearer.  And the best part is, since no one else is going to read it, your writing can be as abysmal as can be.

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