Writing has become my preferred thinking tool

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For the longest time, I did not enjoy the writing of any kind. I thought it a chore when I had to do so for school, university, or work. The idea of writing for pleasure never entered my mind. Now that I have committed myself to writing everyday, it has become my preferred thinking tool.

As of April 20, I have maintained the following writing habits: 

  • Generate notes for every article/podcast that I have resonated with for 95 days
  • Daily reflection for 21 days
  • Capturing 100% of random ideas for 18 days
  • Morning pages everyday for six days
  • Written an article for publication everyday for five days

On the face of it, it doesn’t seem like much, but for me this is a drastic change from my writing habits of old. 

The most surprising thing to come out of this is my new appreciation for our brains. I did not realise before starting this how active our minds are. We have so many thoughts, and while not all of them are noteworthy, many more than you think are. Capturing random ideas that pass through has sparked so many more ideas. The feeling is akin to buying a 6-pack chicken nuggets at Macca’s but finding out they put in 7. It is inspiring. 

There is a lot of evidence that the act of savouring, often and deeply, is a characteristic of happy people. I can’t say for sure that I am happier now then before I committed to writing, but I can say that I am savouring more often and with greater focus. Every good thing that happens in a given day, I have written about in my daily reflection.

While science says it helps in the moment, what I look forward to is reviewing those reflections weeks, months, even years from now. This is such a powerful ideas and something I wish I started sooner. It will be interesting to reflect back on how my attitudes grow over the years and where my focus shifts. I have always been all about the data since I studied statistics, and now its empowering to know I will have a map for where I have been. 

Writing, in the best possible way, harkens back to my studying days. Writing is my way of learning for fun. The reason why I school was because I felt like I had do it. Now, I am writing for myself to: 

  • Engage more with what I come across
  • Be more thoughtful and reflective
  • Process my thinking

This was the approach I had for studying for exams. My process would involve writing notes in long-form each subject, and then summarising and consolidating those notes. I would summarise three or four times, each time aiming to reduce the number of pages I used for each iteration. By the fourth time, all my consolidated notes would usually fit on one-side of an A4 piece of paper. 

I feel like I am replicating this process now. The difference being that I don’t have any constraints on what I have to learn, I can go down any rabbit hole I like. My initial long-form notes includes everything in my resonance calendar, all the random ideas I capture, my daily reflections, and my morning pages. The process of linking across relevant ideas is the first form of consolidation. The final one-sided A4 product is the article I have published. 

Writing has turned into a means to process my thinking, to learn. It still hasn’t sunk in that I now enjoy doing this. It makes me wonder how different school would have been if we got to decide what we wanted to study earlier. I even think the illusion of choice would have made a difference. 

While writing has been my focus, the next thing be more intentional with organisation. Roam Research is a tool that I have recently picked up to help in this regard. It is built using the principles of Zettelkasten, a method for organising and retrieving notes developed by Niklas Luhmann who had a prolific writing streak. The German sociologist wrote his PhD in 1 year, and to write 58 books and countless publications throughout his academic career. Check out this article on how Roam Research has unlocked my desire to write to learn more. 

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