Writing Is a Symptom of Thinking

The title of this post is the closing line from one of Seth Godin’s blog posts this week, Even if it’s not graduation week for you…

In the post, Seth encourages his readers to write, to simply write.

Even in an age where audiobooks outsell print, AI can turn text into speech, and people scan, they don’t read, Seth still recommends that you learn to write.

Here’s a couple of memorable lines from Seth’s post:

Writing is your opportunity to stand out, to pitch in and to make a difference.

Writing may be the skill with the highest return on investment of all.

The timing of Seth’s post was uncanny; two days later for Father’s Day, I was given a copy of Anne Lamott’s bestseller, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life.

I’m only a few pages into the book, but so far I’ve found it insightful, humorous, and motivational, and I thought I’d share a few of the nuggets of wisdom I’ve picked up.

  • Anne notes that writing gives you an excuse to go places and explore and pay attention. I interpreted this literally because I’ve experienced this over the past four years of my daily writing. Since I am always looking for something to write about, it almost became a necessity to proactively go out into the world and do things or to simply observe more closely what is going on. Of course, there’s also the chance that Lamott meant this figuratively, encouraging writers to go places in their mind and explore what is there. That’s a little too profound for me; I’ll stick with my literal interpretation.
  • Lamott accepted being alone a lot as a child, as did I. She then notes that this sort of person either becomes a writer or a career criminal.
  • Her father, also a writer, encouraged her to write every day, as you would do the scales on the piano. If you slowly try harder and harder pieces and if you read great writers, you’ll become a better writer. I’ve committed to writing every day, realizing that some days are better than others, but I think I’ve gotten better over the past few years. (the bar was pretty low when I started).
  • Lamott notes that even if you don’t get published or get the monetary rewards you were hoping for as a result of your writing, the act of writing turns out to be its own reward.
  • Lamott teaches a writing class, and she hopes that her students go from wanting to have written something to just wanting to be writing because writing brings both joy and challenge. This is exactly how I feel; I want to write because of the challenge and joy that it brings me every day.
  • Lamott recommends that you sit down to write at about the same time each day as a way of training your subconscious to be creative. And even though there are days where the magic does not happen, if you stick to it every day, something will happen. I have gotten into the habit of usually sitting down to write my blog about 9:00 at night, hoping that after a full day of experiencing life, I would have something to write about. Unfortunately, it’s rarely that easy.

I am thoroughly enjoying the book and finding it quite relevant to what I am experiencing as a blogger.

I thought I’d close with a great quote from E.L. Doctorow that Lamott shares:

Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

So yes, writing is about getting one sentence down at a time, and then the next. And if you keep doing that, at some point you will reach your destination; you’ll be a writer.

*image from Brain Pickings

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