Anybody with a slightly over-analytical mind (which, in my experience, is pretty much anybody who embraces some sort of creative endeavour) will tell you. Your mind just can’t shut up.
It is quite distracting, to say the least. Ideas, thoughts and pictures keep blinking around in your brain like Christmas lights. You can see them, feel them, but can’t quite make sense of what is going on, why it is making you feel a certain way or what you are supposed to do about it.
The good news is, there is something you can do about it. It won’t make it stop (why would you want to stop such a beautiful, creative mess?) but it will help you tame your mind, slow it down a notch and allow you to focus on a little bunch of lights at a time.
Whether you’re looking to conceptualise your next masterpiece, process some raw emotions or just get a bit of peace and quiet to focus, you’re gonna need to get some words out of you. Yes my friend, focus and clarity can be achieved by the simple, yet often overlooked art of writing.
As a creative, you need to write
If you are able to read this, you are either a search engine looking for keywords to rank this post in a sea of online content, or you are a human being.
Let’s assume for a second I am talking to the latter. Us humans have an intrinsic need for communication. Regardless of our personality type, this basic need starts at birth (crying for food is survival), and is kind of a big deal later on in life to manage to earn a living, learn stuff, make friends, or even buy a bottle of wine at the end of a long day (See? Again, survival).
I have always found writing a natural way of communicating not only with others but with myself, too. Over the years, I have developed the habit of writing regularly and have been using it as a self-introspective tool, which I have found to be quite powerful. As an entrepreneur, it also helps me get some perspective on certain ideas when I don’t have a team to bounce off of. And contrary to popular belief, writing is not an art reserved for a select few. I believe every creator, maker or artist should explore writing for the beauty of it.
Writing is therapeutic
Do you ever feel frustrated by the constant stream of words and thoughts going on in your mind and find yourself trying to shut it up? Now let me ask you. Ever tried to get a toddler to shut up? It has the exact opposite effect. Try ignoring them, it’s even worse. You will hear the same sentence 32 678 times in a row until you make eye contact, listen and acknowledge the vital piece of information that’s been shared with you. See what I’m getting at? Your creative mind is a bit like a toddler trying to get your attention. And just like toddlers, it typically likes to act up at night.
One of my all-time favourite authors Joan Didion once said:
“I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.”
Writing allows you to extract some of your deeper, unconscious thoughts and observe them from a distance. That space gives you a fresh perspective and more often than not, allows you to break down unsurmountable cloudy mountains into colourful and chewable little M&M’s.
Writing allows you to revisit your best ideas
Putting your thoughts to paper is not only cheaper than therapy, it also gives you the opportunity to revisit ideas later for inspiration. Brilliant bursts of genius that may have eluded you can resurface days, or even weeks after writing them down, when you are in a different frame of mind. That’s why I constantly take note of my ideas, review them, shape them, and either do something with them or leave them alone for the time being.
Writing down your ideas and thoughts is also a way to document your journey, remember a particular season in your life, specific feelings and obsessions that you could otherwise forget along the way. Journaling has the added benefit of not being edited or filtered, which gives you a much more accurate picture of yourself at that time.
Writing helps you gain clarity
I like to think of writing as the decluttering of the mind.
As you may know, I took my first steps into minimalism with the help of Marie Kondo. For me, minimalism has been key in gaining internal clarity and focus by getting rid of physical clutter. When there are no distractions around you, you can’t ignore your voice or true self, it becomes a lot louder, but also a lot clearer.
You can apply Marie Kondo’s principles to this. Get everything out of your head, hold each item in your “hand” and decide: Does this thought fires me up or holds me back? Can I make something with this? Do I need to deal with an unresolved issue? Write it out, deal with it and reverently send it on its merry way.
So you get the picture. If you want a happier, quieter mind, get writing.
A simple writing guide
Now that we understand the benefits of writing for yourself, chances are there will be a time in your creative journey where you’ll have to share your thoughts with the world in written form. This could be through your blog, emails, a pitch to an investor, or just to explain the rationale behind your work. If writing isn’t something you feel comfortable with, or if you feel like you could dig a little deeper and use a writing guide, here are some of my very own made-up and non-endorsed rules to help you become a better writer.
Rule #1: Keep it simple.
Now I’m sure you’re thinking that you’re no Hemingway. And you would be correct. ‘Cause you’re you. So why would you want to write like Ernest?
More often than not, we tend to hold ourselves back in fear of being judged by others. Self-doubt tends to creep up when it comes to hearing your voice. Whether in a recording or on paper, we don’t like seeing our voice in broad daylight for others to judge. It’s natural. But not particularly productive. It’s your lizard brain taking over and telling you: “Danger! You’re taking a risk!”
The truth is, writing does not have to be a difficult or complex task. Every great author started out by writing. Just writing. A lot of writing.
So quit the complexes already, and simply write. Write like you. Write because you have something to say or something to process. Write to celebrate the fact that you have the intellectual capabilities to write. Trust me, it is a privilege.
Takeaway: Writing is easy. Just start by stringing words together in a sentence. Just show up, and the rest will follow.
Rule #2: Pretend you’re already there
At school, my favourite type of assignment was creative writing. Mine would usually end up being read in class as an example.
I don’t think I was particularly gifted or worked harder than others – I’d learnt the basics of grammar and storytelling in class just like my classmates. So why was my writing deemed more worthy of being shone as an example?
I remember sitting down to write and putting myself in the shoes of a great author, even if I mostly had no idea what I was doing. It didn’t matter. I didn’t overthink style, plot or structure. I just wrote. I could visualise the room the writer was in, what he or she was wearing, what he or she had for breakfast and some kind of drama that happened in his/her life, and I followed their idea, or a string of words, and let my mind and fountain pen do the rest. It almost felt like cheating, as if the words weren’t really my own.
I cannot claim that a few essays at school would make me as an authority on writing, far from it. But what I believe this did, was spark a passion for playing with words in all simplicity, and pretending to be one of the greats, just for the fun of it.
Takeaway: If you regard writing as something playful and simple, the words will come pouring out of you.
Rule #3: Be curious and play
This leads me to my next point. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Stay curious. Curious about how you can play with a sentence, a paragraph. Curious about an idea, follow it right down the rabbit hole and see where it leads you. Curious about where words come from and why. When we’re curious, we tend to be more playful. And creativity is one big playground. Ever wondered why kids’ have such a wild imagination? They can tell you the craziest story, or make the most insane argument, in 3 points, about how, at two and a half, they are indeed qualified to drive the car. That’s because children don’t give a damn about what people are going to think. They follow an idea, as crazy as it is, and want to make a point. They want to tell a story and have fun while doing so. And the result is pure magic.
So fuel your creativity with curiousity. Read. Listen. Go somewhere. Try new things. New experiences do wonders for your brain’s activity and increase neural connections.
Takeaway: New experiences + curiousity + play = your own sauce of creative genius.
Rule #4: Write where you are, with what you have
I recently received an email inviting me to a writing retreat in Bali.
That sounded like the perfect getaway. A select few like-minded creatives, all on a mission to finish, continue or start their book, in a natural paradise, punctuated by mindfully prepared nutritious foods, experiencing life-changing connections and practicing yoga at sunrise, all under the guiding eye of a caring, published author. Can I get a “yes please”!
While I love the sound of it, it isn’t quite realistic in my life right now. And chances are, in yours too. Most of us can’t afford to take time off from ‘real life’ while we raise other humans, work to pay bills and deal with very unsexy life realities. That, however, should not stop you from writing. On a napkin, on a laptop, the back of a chair or on the walls. Just write where you are, when you can, with what you have. None of the greatest works of literature would have seen the light of day if their authors had been waiting for the perfect conditions.
Takeaway: Do not wait for circumstances to be right or for someone to give you permission. You could be waiting a long time. And you have to urgently start paying attention to the voice within you. It likes to write.
Rule #5: Let it breathe
That is my golden rule for any writing that is intended for other humans to read. When I’m in a state of inspiration and creativity, I get super excited and just want to rush what I have to say out into the world. That’s usually not a good idea. There’s a time to pour unfiltered, unedited words out of you, and there’s a time for editing. And I believe even more important is the time in between. The white space you leave for your writing to breathe.
Takeaway: Write it all down. Breathe. Then breathe a little more. Edit. Only then can you scream from the rooftops.
Rule #6: Distraction is your enemy
Most people struggle with writing because we have somehow forgotten how to be alone with our thoughts. Scrolling has replaced scribbling, jotting down and just daydreaming. Notifications pop up from all devices, constantly pulling our attention out of focus. One needs peace and quiet to pursue an idea.
While we don’t all have the luxury to have perfect writing conditions, there is an app for that (not even kidding). It is a magical little piece of software called Ommwriter. It literally changed my writing life and is my version of a mini Bali writing retreat.
The principle of Ommwriter is to give you a “perfect place to think and write”. In a Marie Kondo like manner, it momentarily clears all the clutter from your computer by taking over your screen and providing your own little writing sanctuary.
It cuts out all notifications, lets you choose visual and auditory backgrounds to keep you in focus and hear that voice of yours with such clarity it almost feels like cheating. It anchors you in the present moment through your sight (I am currently writing over a minimalist background featuring gorgeous natural light), hearing (the water sound relaxes me instantly) and even touch (the keyboard sounds makes it a very tactile experience too).
Takeaway: Bring some minimalism to your writing experience with Ommwriter. Clear the clutter, cut out distractions, plug in your headphones and I dare you not to start typing for the joy of it.
A parting gift
I would like nothing more than for you to (re)discover the pure joy of writing. So I asked the team at Ommwriter if they would consider giving my readers a discount. They said yes. This is not a sponsored post by the way, I am not receiving any kickbacks for writing this. But I have been using the app for just over a year, and love the concept so much that wanted to share it with you.
All you have to do is click here to subscribe to my monthly letters Nourishing The Artist, and receive your 30% off coupon code.
Happy writing my friend!