Thinking is a complex process.
You need to:
- recollect information,
- connect different ideas together,
- extract the correct conclusion out of all of this mess.
Our brain is unique in its capacity for thinking.
But you can surely improve it. How? By thinking through writing.
Written ideas are for your brain, what shoes are for your foot. They make you go faster.
The benefits of thinking through writing
Thinking only inside your brain is the natural approach.
Nothing weird in that. But from ancient times till today, a lot of thinkers discovered the advantage of writing down ideas.
The benefits of this practice are extensive. For creators, three stand out.
1. You don’t forget important stuff
Our minds tend to forget small and big details. And often, when it happens, we don’t even notice.
Forgetting the toilet paper at the supermarket is a minor inconvenience.
Losing the idea for new content or an improvement to a product will damage your creative process in unpredictable ways.
2. It prevents mistakes
If you depend only on memory, mistakes, even around crucial decisions, become more prevalent.
You launch a new online course. All good, but you don’t track down your analysis on the results.
6-12 months later, you organize a second launch. You plan to change something. You remember that “this and that” didn’t work out perfectly the first time. But do you remember correctly? Weren’t there any other weak spots? How sure are you?
All this self-doubting is useless. And to prevent it, write down (more of) your ideas.
3. You improve the average quality of your ideas
If you retain more ideas in textual form, then you expand your mind.
The simple act of writing down a thought helps you fix it in your long-term memory.
But it doesn’t stop there.
A written idea is easier to share with other creators or with your audience. You don’t have to verbalize it out of the blue. You simply repeat what you’ve already written.
And best of all, with multiple ideas available in text, creating connections among them becomes easy.
How to start to think through writing
There are multiple approaches.
If you start on this path, experiment in different ways. I bet your first approach won’t stick as the definitive one.
These 3 are methods that I tried. After a while, I abandoned both of the first two. The last one for me and my mind has proven to be more effective.
But on this, everyone has different preferences.
Start a journal
This approach is famous throughout history. Emperors, scientists, and philosophers recorded their ideas in their journals.
The idea is to first make it a regular appointment. Daily, weekly, or monthly you record what matters to you in your journal.
And the more regular you are, the easier it gets. With consistency, transferring meaningful ideas from your head to your journal require less and less effort.
A good way o begin with is the Plus Minus Next journaling approach.
The James Altucher method
I don’t know if this is a good approach for the long term. But for me, it has been good as a starter for the habit of writing down my ideas.
James Altucher is a blogger, an entrepreneur, and an author.
A suggestion that he repeats often is to write down 10 ideas every day . The first 4-5 will be easy. After that, it starts to get harder and harder.
In his opinion, this exercise improves your capacity to generate more ideas.
For sure, it helps you start to write down concepts and thoughts from your mind. And yes, it’s also quite challenging.
Zettelkasten, my present approach
This is a methodology to take and organize notes. The book How to Take Smart Notes explains it in every detail.
The three main elements are:
1. atomicity, one concept per note,
2. hyper-connection, you have to interlink the various notes among them,
3. productivity, the final purpose of the Zettelkasten is to increase the quantity of content you produce.
In time I abandoned the previous two methods mainly because they represented extra work for me.
The Zettelkasten instead is functional with my activity as a creator.
At present, I have around 200 notes. It’s still a fresh collection. But pretty much all of the notions in this article came from there. I only had to structure them around the main topic.
The next step
Choose any of the previous three approaches or even a different one.
The method is secondary, especially at the beginning. I see too many people going crazy around the perfect note-taking solution. Then they only take a dozen and forget it.
Start to write down your ideas. Do it consistently. It will become a habit. And it will bring more clarity to your thinking.