I don’t enjoy writing; I enjoy having written. So that first draft for me is the hardest because the kind of writing I do — it’s a kind of thinking.
I write primarily to find out what I’ve been thinking, and I don’t know until I write it — Kevin Kelly
Thinking about writing the way Kevin Kelly does made me write differently. Better, even. I write to think, not to write.
If I try and think in order to write, my head becomes a hot mess. My brain turns to mush. My process is to come up with headlines during the week and email them to myself. A headline is an idea. It’s a thought that I believe is worthy of its own story to explain in detail.
I cut myself off at a headline thought. Once the headline is written I come back and then think about it as I write.
There is something about sitting down to write with zero expectations that changes the words your fingers type. It’s as though the process of writing does all the work for you without you having to do anything. I can write 10,000 words in a single day if I just stop trying to think and start writing.
Writing is a journey into yourself
Your brain is full of ideas, experiences, and potential experiments.
When you write you organize all that information in your brain. One thought becomes a paragraph. A library of quotes becomes the icing on your writing cake at the end.
I write to understand my thinking. I don’t truly understand what I think about an experience until I write about it. For example, I heard a story about a man that jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge and was saved by a sea lion.
The story only made sense when I understood it from the point of view of the sea lion. Writing the story in my own words helped me understand it.
As I wrote the story, I went back to 2016 when I visited San Francisco and stood in the same place. I remember looking over the edge of the bridge and imagining what lay beneath the freezing cold sea. The thought of being in that water, alone, was terrifying.
The man and the sea lion story took me back to that place. The experience of standing on the Golden Gate Bridge took on a whole new meaning. Knowing someone survived a run-in with that bridge, thanks to a sea lion, gave me tremendous hope about the state of the world and what is possible.
A story takes on a whole new meaning when you write about it and deconstruct your thinking in the process.
Think to practice creativity
I don’t practice writing. I practice thinking.
The self-help dudes dating women wearing Lululemon gym pants preach habits like the gospel. Well, they’re right. Going to the gym can be a habit.
Thinking is the best kind of habit.
When you practice thinking, you understand the world better and your place within it. Words make your thoughts a reality.
Writing is a form of creative expression, that if practiced long enough, can rewire your thinking entirely.
You never think the same way twice. There are always subtle differences.
The same is true when you write about a topic more than once. I never write the same personal finance story twice. Each time I’ve written about money the meaning has shifted slightly.
It started with “quit your job.” Then I saw money as a way to invest in assets like stocks. Then I saw money as a tool. Then money became a way to distribute random acts of kindness. Then money became a way to relax more and stress less.
Now when I write about money I see it as all of those things, plus a way to buy back your time so you have the freedom to do whatever work you want without having to think about how much you’re going to get paid.
My thoughts on money have evolved by writing about it. I couldn’t predict this change in thinking when I started talking about personal finance after working in banking for many years. That’s the beauty of writing. Writing helped me understand and evolve my thoughts on money over time.
I wrote to accidentally evolve my thinking in secret.
This is why when you read your work from five years ago you can’t recognize the writer who wrote it. Each writing session evolves your thinking and slowly changes the type of writer you are. This is the magic of writing, at its finest.
Think to help others
The main reason I want to write to think is so I can find ways to solve problems that many people face.
The thing is a solution to a problem isn’t straightforward for me. I have to write about a problem ten times just to understand it at a surface level. When your goal is to help others with your writing, your thinking shifts and your thoughts are written down in a different way.
You start to write as though you’re having an imaginary conversation with a reader who needs help, who you’ve never met and probably won’t. Conversational writing is able to be heard easier by a reader.
Surprise yourself with your own thinking
You’ll be surprised what happens when you subtly start writing to think.
Your thinking has incredible value. Analyzing your thoughts through writing will give you immense power in your life to create cataclysmic shifts in the philosophies in which you live by.
My writing feels terrible. But what I am surprised by is the evolution of my thinking. I used to be a 4 AM asshole who spewed green smoothies all over people’s well-kept faces. Not anymore.
My thinking has evolved thanks to writing. This would never have happened if I’d stopped writing and thought my thinking was terrible or unhelpful. I started with shaky thinking and then let the input of books and the writing process evolve my thinking over time.
The same opportunity is available to you. You don’t have to be a writer. You can just be a thinker and use writing to capture your thoughts with an illusionary net. When you do, you surprise yourself. You’ll find ways to combine, detach, mold, sculpt and craft completely new ideas.
Writing accelerates your thinking. Write to evolve your thinking and be helpful too.