Forget apps, hacks and shortcuts. Writing takes practice, practice, practice
Last week’s post about The Key to Writing Faster provoked a lot of feedback. In fact, Jeffrey Wyant, serial entrepreneur and co-founder of Coast to Coast Fulfillment, Inc. in West Greenwich, Rhode Island submitted a great guest post that I wanted to share with you.
Guest post: JEFFREY WYANT — Writing is all about putting one’s thinking and imagination down in a form that can be passed on to other people over time. Without writing, we’d still be living in caves. You need the thought first, but the exercise of writing your thoughts down forces you to develop the thought first and then work out the details so others can understand.
As the old saying goes: “Your thoughts are only as good as your ability to express them.” Here are two more corollaries to that rule:
- If you want to learn something, teach something.
- If you want to know about a subject, write a book about it.
Following these corollaries forces you to clarify your thoughts, to fill in the blanks and to communicate what you know in a form that can be absorbed and acted upon by others.
Einstein’s greatest achievements did not occur in physical laboratories, but in laboratories of the mind. Did you know his renowned theory of relatively came from a “thought experiment,” (a what-if scenario) he conducted in his mind? Then Einstein had to write it down in order to remember it and to enable others to reflect and act upon it.
Many Eureka moments happen when previously-muddled, but nagging, thoughts coalesce into a new idea, a cogent breakthrough. Some of us experience these moments in the shower. Biochemist Kary Mullins got the idea for the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) while driving through a California forest at late at night. As soon as he could, Mullins wrote down what came to him during that late-night drive so he could test and refine his theory.
Mullins’ “ideation” process led to a Nobel Prize in Chemistry for what became a crucial part of the method enabling the development of the Covid-19 vaccines and many other DNA/RNA-based medical treatments. But none of that would have happened if Mullins didn’t take the time to write down his initial thoughts.
Writer Gabriel García Márquez was struggling for years to convey what he regarded as powerful psychological and philosophical truths in a nascent novel. As with Mullins, inspiration took place in the car for Marquez while he was driving his family to a vacation destination. During the long drive, Marquez finally figured out in his mind how to portray the fictional town of Macondo and the multi-generational lives of the Buendía family. He immediately cancelled the vacation, returned home, and wrote “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” which has sold over 50 million copies in 46 languages. Márquez won the Nobel Prize in literature 1982 But that never would have happened if he hadn’t freed up his mind on a long drive and immediately written down his early thoughts!
Writing as a tool for innovation
I’m not worried about winning Nobel Prizes, but I can’t tell you how empowering it is to get all the random thoughts in my brain, written down and loosely organized and codified. Somehow writing things down make them real. I have taken some writing classes to improve the process, but the big lesson I keep getting is JUST KEEP WRITING…Write…anything. The eye-hand-mind coordination itself helps develop more neural pathways, which become stronger, faster and more resilient over time. Over time, you learn to string the disparate “monkey-mind” thoughts together into a compelling story.
I spend a lot of time in entrepreneurial circles. It’s often said that that business plans are simply dreams put forth for others to read and buy into. One of Elon Musk’s dreams is to colonize Mars. His company, SpaceX, is the path to that dream. But to go on that path Musk had to learn to read Russian books and papers on rockets. Then he had to articulate in writing how his dream could become a reality.
We all have dreams and great ideas. But the only way to make those dreams and ideas actionable for others is to capture them in writing and then describe for others to take to make them a reality.
I am a firm believer in practice, practice, practice — which is why I am writing this to you. It’s good practice for me, but I hope it contains some nuggets that can add a bright spot to your day.
What’s your take? Jeff and I’d like to hear from you.
#practicemanagement, #betterwriting, #ElonMusk, #SpaceX, #innovation