Until recently, I’ve never really thought of myself as “writer.” It’s always felt like a chore more than a thrill. Regardless, it’s become a huge part of my career. Of my average workday, about 75-80% involves writing in some form – screenplays, emails, blog articles, or shownotes for our podcast.
You may not spend quite that much time writing, but I’d bet if you really think about it, you do more writing than you realize. Most of our communication involves writing in some way, even texting our friends or posting a caption on Snapchat or Instagram. Of course, there’s a big distinction between this basic communication (texting, emails, social media) and the practice of sitting down specifically to put our stories or ideas onto a blank page.
If you’re not already a “writer,” you probably don’t have a strong interest in this more focused form of writing. I didn’t either, until I started writing screenplays with Will. Since then, writing has become a bigger and bigger part of my life and provided some major benefits I never would’ve enjoyed otherwise. I’ve started recommending that everyone (even “non-writers”) set aside some time every day to journal or blog in some way.
The process of writing is fulfilling and valuable in and of itself, but the skill-set involved also translates to almost every other area of life. Here are five of the biggest benefits to writing daily…
1. Writing makes you a better communicator.
Setting aside time to focus on writing will naturally help you expand your vocabulary, think more critically, and formulate easier-to-understand sentences. It works out the muscles in your brain that put words together and thus improves your effectiveness at telling stories and sharing ideas.
2. Writing sharpens your perspective.
Information moves so fast and freely now, we’re constantly flooded with others’ opinions and ideas. As a result, we tend to pretty much base our perspective off of those around us. Unfortunately, when we generate our opinions purely by regurgitating what others have said, we never fully think through our own point of view.
Taking time to write inevitably exposes gaps in our knowledge or understanding of a particular subject. I’ve seen this many times where I thought I understood an issue. But, when I tried to write about it, I couldn’t put my ideas into words.
When I first experienced this, I assumed it was just because I was a bad writer. No doubt, my writing skills had a long way to go. But, that wasn’t the real issue. In reality, what “writer’s block” usually reveals is that the writer doesn’t fully understand the topic or story at hand. Fortunately, through the process of writing and editing, you’ll be motivated to fill in those gaps and form a more qualified perspective.
3. Writing brings out new ideas you didn’t know you had.
The biggest excuse I hear from people who aren’t writing is that they “don’t have anything to write about.” Similarly, many feel that they would write, but they never feel inspired to do so. I used to think about inspiration the same way. But, I’ve since realized that it actually tends to work the other way around.
Inspiration is more often the result of writing than the cause of it.
I’ve found that choosing to write, even when I “don’t have anything to say,” helps me discover what I want to say. Whether you realize it or not, you have lots of great ideas inside of you. If you don’t take time to write, you may never discover what they are.
4. Writing (over time) extends your attention span.
One of the more difficult challenges of writing in 2016 is to zone out the noise long enough to actually consider your own ideas. If you’re a beginner at writing, this may be the biggest challenge.
You’ll likely need to create some disciplines to avoid distractions (I often have to turn off my phone and the wifi on my computer until I’m finished with a piece). While it’s kind of sad that this is so much of a struggle, it does reveal another major benefit to writing consistently.
Taking the time to focus on writing increases your ability to resist the noise and organize your thoughts. The more you get in the habit of blocking out distractions to express yourself, the more it will come naturally to stay focused in other areas of life.
5. Writing helps you help others.
As mentioned in #3 above, writing helps you realize your unique ideas and message. A complementary benefit, which may be the coolest thing about writing, is that putting your ideas into words allows others to experience and learn from them. Ideas that stay in your head may be great to you, but they’re worthless to everyone else.
Even if you never actually publish your writing, taking the time to record your ideas or stories for personal reference will teach you how to communicate them effectively in other ways – even simple conversations with friends. You don’t have to write a best-selling book or have your writing read by millions to affect someone with writing. Embrace the fact that your perspective can be valuable to others, and start sharing it.
How to Start Writing Today
Hopefully, you see the benefits of writing daily, but you might not be convinced you have the time or the discipline to do it every day.
I get it.
Writing every day isn’t easy. That’s kind of the point. The challenges that come with the discipline of writing are what make it so rewarding. But like any challenging new habit, it’s good to start small and work your way into it.
THE 3-DAY CHALLENGE
If you’re hesitant to jump into daily writing, challenge yourself to write 500 words a day for the next three days. Don’t worry about the final product being perfect, or important, or groundbreaking. Don’t slow yourself down by editing sentences as you go. Learn to live with it being bad.
Especially hen you’re getting started, focus the process, not the final product. If you keep this in mind, five hundred imperfect words is not a lot – it should take about a half hour, tops.
Once you complete the 3-day-500-word challenge, you’ll start to see some of the benefits above. From there, challenge yourself to five days of 500 words. Then, up it to 750 words. If you can work your way up to 1,000 words / day, your entire perspective will change. When you encounter stories, characters, places, and ideas, you’ll stop simply consuming them. Instead, your mindset will shift to that of an active contributor.
It’s not just about the act of writing. It’s about learning to observe the world in a way that allows us to communicate the things we see for the benefit of others (even if “others” is just our future selves).
So, take the challenge and start writing today. I think you’ll like it.