Writing about your work
When I interned at a publishing company in New Orleans, Louisiana, I evaluated “queries”, 1-page synopses of manuscripts that writers wanted to be published.
My job was to throw 90% of them out and give the rest to the publishing company’s editor.
Three queries I remember were:
- long-haul trucker’s exposé of his industry
- homemaker’s cookbook on next-level microwave-oven cooking
- an insider’s history of crawfish husbandry in Louisana
All three of these authors wrote about their work, so you might say they inspired this post.
“Reading after a certain age,” said Einstein, “diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking.”
Einstein is right about reading stultifying the brain and detracting from creative endeavors. But what’s interesting is that writing has almost the exact opposite effect.
The effect of writing on the brain
Writing breaks down lazy habits of thinking. Writing organizes useful thoughts about a subject, thoughts that previously floated around unattached, only being recalled from time to time by happenstance. It can also be used to understand your emotional experiences, maybe even help you resolve negative ones.
Those aspiring authors whose queries I reviewed knew this better than most people, whether or not they got published. Whatever thoughts that long-haul trucker harbored about trucking-industry hijinx, they were more polished than before he started his books.
Writing publicly about your work
There are some things you’re not meant to do in public, but writing is just fine!
Writing in public at length, on a specific subject, any subject, accelerates the obliteration of “lazy habits of thinking” we talked about earlier; it pushes you to commit to an opinion on a given subject, and that commitment makes you think carefully.
I, for example, write a lot about Good Digital Content; part of my job is to understand why it’s different than normal or non-Digital content. I could ever have come to the conclusions I’ve reached so far without writing about the subject in public.
It puts your thinking and self-expression right next to that of your peers. For that reason, you have to try that much harder to prove your case. If your case collapses, you get to revise and make a better one — and you’ll be much more motivated to do so.
What a great idea-filter writing about your work can be?!
- Examine with a mental microscope how you and your organization get work done so you can improve it.
- Evaluate whether you have enough to say on a subject to justify someone else spending their time reading it a report on it.
- Work out different responses to a complex or difficult email — by writing about it for 2 or 3 pages.
In short, filter your thoughts; control them, or they’ll control you.
Writing helps you throw thoughts in the mental trash bin
The end result is that writing helps you throw thoughts in the mental trash bin. Leaving you with the good stuff.
When you’ve decluttered your thoughts on a matter in advance, eliminating repetitiveness, eliminating “lazy thinking”, you open up mental space for a creative, interesting idea, or way of expressing one. You’ve maybe replaced generalisms with genuine insights.
This could make you and your listeners a little happier to figure things out together!
In conclusion, if some of your ideas belong in the trash bin, or if you want new ideas, sit down and write.