Writing Teaches Us To Think

The Muses of Poetry, Music and Art Inspire the Artist

It is a marvel to write and the more I do it, the more writing teaches me not just how to write better but how to think and think things through. This is true of daily journaling, reviewing other works, reporting news stories, developing original material, jotting down a poem or adapting an already existing piece. Writing is a problem-solving tool and an art form. It’s an exploration, a discovery and a means of information exchange. It is only limited by the confines of our imagination. One thing is certain. A person who writes and communicates well is of great value in business, art and community.

The internal inquiry into what longs to be expressed is the beginning of every piece of communication. That question informs the style and form of the writing or piece of music but the inquiry itself is a wonder and far more complex than we probably need to know, unless neurology is your field. Which part of the brain conducts the search for the right notes or words, how is memory accessed and formed into the equation and so on is the life work of highly skilled and devoted scientists.

In fact one of the challenges in writing is staying on track. We all go off topic. This is why an outline is so helpful. As an example, while writing a comic sci-fi/fantasy a few years ago I stumbled on the The Human Connectome Project http://www.thehumanconnectomeproject.org – ongoing brain mapping research funded by the NIH http://www.nih.gov It was part of my research in the area of quantum physics but it lead me down a rabbit hole and took me way off topic in my script. I’m still not sure how to get it back on track! As of now the script languishes as an incomplete rewrite draft. I do want to go back and right that piece.

A graphic image of the human brain from the Human Connectome Project.

Another thing writing teaches is that an expanded awareness is available upon reflection. The effort it takes to write and the attention it requires pays off. It’s as if our brains go into search mode and it returns to tell us all it knows from multiple angles. The longer we stay focused the more we are given insights. In fact I think that really is what’s happening. When I have a vivid dream, for example, I write it down as fast as possible. The process of recall always brings more information, like surfing the Internet only surfing on my own neural network. Then I am nearly always interested in doing research to go even further.

By the same token, writing often evokes the fear I having nothing to say. This is really quite terrifying. I don’t know why this is so but it is a common experience for all writers and artists. It’s like stage fright. Fear of the blank page or canvas. It can stop us from even starting. Over the years I have developed a toolbox of ways to overcome this type of psychological obstacle. I will share some of these in a series of upcoming posts. For now I will say that there is only one remedy and that’s to do it anyway.

The next fear is usually not far behind. What if what I communicate isn’t meaningful or inspiring to others? To this heckling harpy of self-doubt one can only realize that these fears are human nature and will probably never be completely resolved. They can only be managed as a part of our experience. The quest in writing is to share whatever it is we want to say as effectively and sometimes as beautifully as possible.

Writing teaches me something every day and this, I think, is why it is so compelling. It teaches me patience and focus and confidence. It illuminates more of what I want to say and it drives me deeper into the exploration of new ideas, and the range of emotions and roles I play on this odyssey called life. Writing has the power to transform the writer, the recipient of the writing and even the world. I am in awe of it and encourage everyone to practice writing, even if it’s for your eyes only.

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