Perhaps one of the biggest gifts of leaving Google has been the time I now have to commit to writing. It has brought me back to a truth about myself I think I knew on some level, but I now know beyond a doubt: writing feeds me in some vital way.
It has given me so much, in fact, that I'd like to devote a whole post to why I write and how, what surprising benefits it has yielded, and why I think everyone should start some similar habit of self-expression.
Why I write
At first, my intention was to share my story with friends and family in a scalable way, to create an outlet of expression for myself, and to commit to exposing my thoughts to the scary chaos of the internet to get over my fear of embarrassment. It was also a way of fostering more discipline in myself.
As Robert Greene says, "To attain mastery, you must adopt what we shall call Resistance Practice. The principle is simple—you go in the opposite direction of all of your natural tendencies when it comes to practice."
My natural tendency is to start without finishing, to shirk from exposure, and to allow impulse to lead me more than practicality or discipline.
Has this worked, then? Clearly, there's some work to be done in terms of my daily habit... but I feel accomplished nevertheless, because coming back to something I've done with less than 100% regularity feels like resilience.
As far as sharing my story I think it's worked beyond what I hoped. I have friends and acquaintances I haven't spoken to in months come to me or message me with positive feedback or stories of inspiration. While I'm not sure my writing merits this type of kindness, flawed and rambling as it can be, it feels lovely and encouraging all the same.
But now I've realized that these aren't the only functions of writing. The other unexpected benefit of committing to regular blogging has been that my mind is more open to new ideas and is consequently more stimulated than ever, and that my thinking is now more rigorous, since any insights I encounter must be scrutinized that much more for clarity, usefulness, and reasoning.
Try it; you may be shocked at how unexamined your thoughts can be. I am as self-reflexive as they come, and yet the practice of translating the dense networks of my mind into coherent articles has uncovered gaps in reasoning or nuanced alternative perspectives I don't think I'd have caught as easily before.
If you want to think skillfully, write.
And if you want to share and sell a vision with others, you must start with knowing what your vision is (your "why") and learning to articulate your truths with conviction. This, I believe, is the essence of charismatic leadership of any kind—and writing has helped me with this in a big way.
How I write
I am constantly on the lookout for sentences, phrases, words, and ideas that move me. I log them as much as possible. I'll go so far as to email quick thoughts to myself while I'm out on the street if a thought strikes that I think could be rich fodder. I keep Stickies on my Macbook of words, dozens of them, that I love. I excerpt quotes from articles and podcasts whenever I can.
I collect inspiration.
It's a joyful and interesting way to live, to constantly seek interesting thoughts and ideas. It's integral to my personality, I suppose, but I think it could enrich anyone's life.
From these lists of nuggets of rich thought, I write only what moves me in that moment. The writing comes out dry and dull if the topic doesn't stir something in me and if the idea feels "unripe." So it's like collecting fruit, like picking fruit from an orchard every single day and waiting for certain ones to ripen, to look and feel ready, and also waiting for your own appetite to awaken towards that specific thing.
Usually, the actual writing of the article flows quickly and effortlessly from this solid foundation of inspiration. I do far less editing than I should in the interest of getting something out there. While I could polish the writing more and tighten my sentences, there's also something to be said for making it as easy as possible on yourself and your schedule so you become excited (instead of daunted) by the prospect of coming back to the writing the next day.
Why you should start
Besides the discipline, the craftsmanship and the pure delight of creative expression, I think everyone should blog, write, draw (or whatever) for one vastly important reason.
It lets you announce to the world who you are, which allows your people to find you more easily.
This has been perhaps one of the biggest gifts of this blog so far. I haven't necessarily created new connections with people that I normally wouldn't have known, as those who read but I haven't yet met seem to be content to read unannounced (which is perfectly fine and lovely). But I have been able to identify who among my acquaintances and less intimate friends are cut from, you could say, the same cloth.
One of my favorite blogger/writers, Danielle LaPorte, captures this truth elegantly: "You send out homing signals to the cosmos by being your true self."
It often feels like there are magical connections waiting to be made in my life and the separating bridge in between is only crossed when I declare myself through my writing. When I express my beliefs, my quirks, share my story, really great people seem to find me more easily.
I think you could just as easily accomplish this by making and doing interesting things, and by sharing that with people as much as possible. The principle is the same: the act of leaving your signature mark, of declaring your true self through the way that you live is what allows your tribe to form around you over time.
I am letting people in. And in doing so, I am finding my people; we are finding each other. I know this is how the world works, but every time I experience it, it feels like pure magic. —Marielle Hare, The Great Discontent
I encourage you to find your expressive outlet. It doesn't have to be writing, but I personally think writing is nice and it's worth a try. :)