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Write to learn

Talking about our hopes and fears with others is important for choosing wisely. There's only one problem: we're forgetful and biased creatures. 

Not only does our brain constantly try to anticipate our immediate future, but we also try to guess how we might feel about that future. (I actually wrote about nexting and prefeeling a few months ago.) 

What's more, our recollection of past events changes every time we tell the story. For example, we remember the things we said with higher accuracy than what others said. This is the results of the self-generation effect and it's just one of the many memory biases observed and studies by psychologists. 

This is why today I want to make a case for writing as an essential tool for making better, wiser decisions

These are just some of the ways writing has helped me and others to grow and evolve across challenges, no matter if they're work-related or otherwise. 

1. Writing helps us process and reflect.


We are SO tempted to consume content nowadays. Articles, videos, memes, tweets, guides, courses - they're all over the place and some of them are fantastic!  

However, reading them is not enough. Consuming content all the time gives us little time to process the information we keep pouring into our brains.  

That's one of the reasons why I see writing as an incredibly valuable practice. Writing gives us a chance to filter information, it nudges us to apply critical thinking and make our own minds about what we read. It also prompts us to dig deeper and evaluate the true impact of all the content we consume.   

 

2. Writing builds self-awareness fast. 


Reading back as little as a few paragraphs or an idea jotted down during a conversation can trigger unexpected connections in our brains. I bet it's happened to you more than once. 

Writing about our doubts, our fears, our expectations, and our hopes and reading what comes out is a great exercise in gaining emotional distance. This is particularly useful if you're facing a tough decision. (Pros and cons lists count as well!) 

 

3. Writing helps us gain clarity.


To me, putting pen to paper and, later, fingers to keyboard has been instrumental in developing a structured way of thinking. 

From what I've seen in others, those who write well think clearly. If you're an avid reader, you must have a favorite author who's way of articulating abstract ideas leave a mark in your life. 

Clarity gained through writing is not a given. It comes from practice and it builds into a self-reinforcing virtuous circle: the more you write, the easier and clearer it becomes. 

 

4. Writing helps us discover what we know. 


Because it's not as easy and evanescent as talking, writing pushes us to explore areas we don't usually consider. That's where the magic happens, as they say. 

 For example, you could use writing to document your decisions, why you made them, the factors that influenced you to choose and what resulted from those decisions. 

The wealth of information you gather as a result enables you to better understand your abilities in that respective area. 

 

5. Writing makes us more involved in our own progress.


"What gets measured gets improved" is a common saying I think can be adapted to "what gets documented gets improved". 

Keeping track of your personal growth through a diary or a log of some sort is a confirmed tactic for leveling up. People have cultivated and used this habit throughout ages and it's helped them as much as it's helped us. We both got to learn from their experiences and become a bit wiser as a result. 

For example, I recently started an achievement log for my freelancing career. A friend recommended this as a way to keep my spirits up when things get tough.

Putting in effort constantly and not looking back frequently enough can lead to frustration and burnout and having this achievement log is part of balancing things out and improving my perspective.

I've also experimented with keeping a gratitude journal, which really made a difference and contributed to a brighter, more balanced outlook. 

 

6. Writing helps us study our emotions.


A key aspect of making wiser decisions is being able to step back and use objectivity to assess your options. 

We all know how difficult it is to practice emotional detachment, especially when the challenge at hand is about someone close and important to us. 

Writing about it can be an incredibly useful way to achieve this emotional distance. It's a frequent exercise recommended by therapists as well. It costs nothing (asides from emotional labor and some time) and it can help you build mental and emotional resilience


There is an abundance of evidence that writing has fundamentally shaped humanity. Me and you, we're not exceptions. 

We may have gotten fancy devices and all sorts of apps that make it easy to use our voice instead of our hands to put content into a visual format, but it's not as effective of a learning method for our brains as writing is. 

Maybe you can give it a shot this weekend. No pressure, no need to involve anyone else but yourself. 

Pick a diary, start a document online, whatever feels natural, and write. Let it all pour in front of your eyes and enjoy the process.

You don't have to be a writer to write. 


Have a calm weekend, 
Andra  

 

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