Why do I enjoy writing so much? What drew me to this activity? This is a question I reflect on often; a question whose answer seems to change over time. I find it fascinating that I was drawn to this discipline. If you’re a regular reader of my blog, it’s pretty clear that I have a passion for fitness. Further, I went to business school and have worked in digital marketing for 10 years now—not really the tortured artist narrative arch. However, like many interests that either strengthen or fade, writing has been an activity that started as a hobby, grew into a habit, and is now considered an ardent love.
I remember the first blog post I ever wrote. It was a short piece about running that I published on Tumblr back in 2014. The writing was awful and I didn’t want anyone else to see it, but I remember exactly how I felt when I hit the ‘publish’ button. I was part terrified, part exhilarated. I don’t recall the reasoning behind wanting to write a post—perhaps because I kickstarted the habit of skimming blogs every morning back in University using the platform StumbleUpon (which is now called ‘Mix’). The concept behind the web app was this: you choose your topics of interest (for me at the time it was self-development, fitness and nutrition) and I would then ‘stumble’ on various articles across the web that aligned with those interests. It was essentially like a low rent version of Google, slanted towards blogs. Whenever I would read well-crafted prose, I was in awe. I wanted to be able to communicate my thoughts and feelings as eloquently as the bloggers I frequented daily did.
In middle and high school, I had a natural aptitude for my History and English courses and did quite well in them. My grade 11 & 12 history teacher, Ms. Doyle’s passion for the subject and the way she crafted historical narratives enthralled me. I remember leaving her class and feeling so excited for the next day, which I came to realize was a pretty unique (and rare) trait within the teaching vertical. I wanted to hear what happened next in the French Revolution, Civil War, and Salem Witch Trials. I felt like an excited little kid—captivated by her stories. It was the way she taught her class that made me seriously consider pursuing a post-secondary education in history.
In grade 12, however, I chose what I thought at the time to be a more pragmatic route: business school. Math has never come easy to me—it’s a discipline I need to work hard at just to reach the bare minimum. I would say that I’m more for a big picture thinker and need to place the problem in context in order to solve it. I struggle with solving math or statistical problems with no applicability or relevance in the real world; it feels too abstract for my mind to grasp.
So while I did pursue a career in business—jumping around in sales and marketing jobs post-graduation—I still felt a drawn to the arts. I started blogging more regularly in 2017 shortly after I left my full-time job and jumped into the not-so-glamorous life of the self-employed. I like to write about personal experiences—intertwining research with my own anecdotes and experiences to bring a fresh twist on a topic.
I started writing strictly about running and fitness, but I didn’t want to pigeonhole myself into one specific genre. I decided, instead, to write about start-ups, self-development, reading, writing, and as of lately, I’ve given myself the flexibility to write about whatever I feel like. My pursuits are a mix of creative and athletics—two seemingly very different disciplines that are paradoxically analogous. As I wrote in my post on Running and Writing, running feeds my writing and writing feeds my running; it’s cyclical.
Similar to my love affair with running, I find that the more I sink my teeth into writing, the more I fall in love with the craft. The deeper I go into the discipline, the more benefits I derive.
Whether you want to become a writer or not, writing is a practice that I think all of us should sustain, even after handing in our last high school essay. It doesn’t need to be public—private writing (journaling) can have a therapeutic and meditative effect. It can help us make sense of the world and discover our own truths. In this post, I want to share with you some of the more intrinsic reasons why I write and have been able to build up a consistent daily writing habit over the last few years. Hopefully by the end, I’ll convince you to take one up as well 🙂
Why I Write
Writing Solidifies Knowledge and Helps You Remember What You Learn
Fortunately, the act of composition, or creation, disciplines the mind; writing is one way to go about thinking, and the practice and habit of writing not only drain the mind but supply it, too – William Strunk & E.B. White, The Elements of Style
From a purely selfish standpoint, writing what I think or what I’ve read helps solidify knowledge—it helps me remember what I read, make sense of it, and apply it to my daily life. It’s one thing to passively read and another to engage with the book—building an active reading habit. After I’ve turned over a book, read a blog, or had a conversation with a friend, writing it down helps me remember it. It stays fresh in my mind and I’m able to revert back to this knowledge in times of adversity, when writing a blog post or other creative work. By putting pen to paper, or in my case, fingers to keyboard, I can better articulate my own truths and experiences. Hearing or seeing is one thing, but writing it down helps archive these thoughts, perspectives, and/or information.
Writing is an Introspective Tool
“We write to make sense of it all.” ―
Writing not only helps you in a professional sense, but also in a personal one. I’ve been in a few unhealthy relationships in the past and journaling in the midst of the relationships was how I was finally able to pull the plug, get up, and leave. I was able to see behavioural patterns and overt incompatibilities. Journaling about these experiences gave me more insight about how these relationships were stealing more than they were giving; how my self-confidence was slowly, insidiously, dwindling away. Reverting and re-reading several journal entries at some of my lowest times, helped me build up the courage to leave the relationship, once and for all.
Journaling doesn’t just help in our relationships; it can be a highly effective introspective tool for all challenges or hardships you’re facing in life. I’ve used this tool to make the decision to move across the country (twice), to pursue self-employment and start multiple businesses, to write down my goals and aspirations, what I’m looking for in a partner, and to deal with tough family situations. Write it down and see what happens.
Writing Has the Potential to Help Many People
“It is immoral not to tell.” ―
I get asked semi-frequently whether I offer coaching or personal training and my answer has always been, and most likely will continue to be, no. One of the main reasons is that my personal training certificate expired like 8 years ago (so I don’t have the proper credentials). However, aside from that, even if I was properly certified, I still likely wouldn’t. I would rather focus on helping more people than in a one-on-one capacity. Writing helps me accomplish that goal. I’m able to distill my knowledge into a blog post, social media post, and as of this year, a book, which is more easily accessible to the public. I don’t like telling people what to do, but rather, provide the research I discovered, my own experiences with said research, and allow my readers to take what they want and throw out the rest. Writing is the opportunity to share what I’ve learned with others and because my life experiences are like no other person on this earth, I have unique insights and discoveries to share. “It is in fact the height of selfishness to merely consume what others [create], writes Robert Greene. The truth is that we all face challenges in our life; by sharing the unique ways we’ve dealt with our own challenges with others, we have the opportunity to help someone else; help someone who is going through the same thing we’ve already been through. Helping others is deeply rewarding and as humans, something that’s inherent in our DNA. I short, writing can help us help.
Writing is Cathartic
The act of writing down our thoughts is therapeutic. If I’m feeling particularly anxious, sad, angry, or upset, putting the kettle on boil, making myself a peppermint tea, and firing up my journaling app is a way for me to release pent up emotions. By just writing out how I’m feeling and labeling my emotions, I’m better able to cope and let go of the negativity. Brad Stulberg, author of The Practice Of Groundedness writes in his article How to Create Space Between Distress and Your Response: “[it] is the act of labeling that creates the space between stimulus and response.” He shares a series of studies from UCLA on the effectiveness of labeling our emotions in dealing with our own:
[When] you label you watch the action movie instead of being in it or consumed by it. As a result, you have more space and freedom to choose what to do next. What is happening on the screen may be intense, and it may be causing all kinds of emotions, but you are still separate from it.
While labelling does help, sometimes I don’t know exactly what emotion I’m feeling—I can’t pinpoint it (or it may be a mix). However, despite that, I still always feel better after a journaling session.
Writing is a Creative Expression; an Art
The immense gratification of looking at something you created and thinking, “Where did that come from?” And being able to answer that it came from you. Not because you were born with it, because you are inherently or intrinsically entitled to it, but because you created it from nothing. – Ryan Holiday.
Our species is driven to create; to produce works of art in whatever form we’re naturally drawn to—to evoke emotions and enthral others. Art can come in many forms: painting, poetry, music, writing, and dance—just to name a few. Writing for me, is my creative expression of choice. Every time I publish a blog post or write a long-form social media post on a topic, I feel as if I’m releasing my art into the world. Many times when I’m writing, ideas will pop into my head seemingly out of no where. If I feel stuck, 90% of the time, going for a run afterwards will help me piece together my sentences, come up with the perfect title, or help me bring in another applicable anecdote into my writing. There is indeed a spiritual element to the the craft—where oftentimes, I’ll re-read my entires and wonder where this prose and these insights came from. Writing is pure creativity and helps me re-connect with the right side of my brain. It’s a form creative expression that takes on a life of it’s own.
Writing is an Important Skill We Need
The ability to communicate is one of the most important long-term skills we can foster, in both our personal lives and careers. Fine-tuning our written communication can translate into oral practice as well, which can be beneficial in not only the professional world but also for maintaining our relationships (and building new ones). You’ve read it in every relationship advice column, seen it in every romantic comedy and heard it from your therapist: communication is key in any relationship. A large majority of the issues I’ve had in my life have stemmed from a fracture in communication; the inability to relay my thoughts and feelings in a transparent and effective way. Getting in the habit of writing—sourcing the right verbiage to translate my thoughts—has helped in so many facets of my life.
As I get older, my passion for writing grows. I’m devoting an increasing amount of time each day to my writing practice. While I only write publishable content for an hour or two each day, I try to practice this skill whenever I can: communicating via text to friends, crafting emails to clients, journaling privately, and writing out summaries and key takeaways after finishing a book.
From a financial perspective, my writing certainly hasn’t been my income backbone, but in the past few years, I’ve started to see a hobby turn into a small pay-off. However, it’s never been about the money—that’s always been a weak motivational frame for me. I’m internally driven by the reasons above and continue to discover my own frames that provide me with the fuel or what Robert Greene calls “creative endurance”: competency, helping others, and exploring my innate curiosity.
From a career-perspective, writing can be a lonely one, but one that is highly rewarding and satisfying.“[Writing is] still easily the best job in the world and almost the only one that can offer immortality,” writes historian and journalist, Andrew Roberts. I’ll leave you with this final word from Stephen King:
Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life as well. It’s about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy, okay? Getting happy. …this book…is a permission slip: you can, you should, and if you’re brave enough to start, you will. Writing is magic, as much the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink. Drink and be filled up. ― On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft