Writing Benefits & Harms


Advantages of Writing

Recording thoughts before they are forgotten, and redirecting them before they go astray, losing their value and purpose. Only in the future, we may record every thought we have (e.g., by having a 24x7 surveillance camera on the brain). Until then, language is the best medium to capture thoughts with.

Processing thoughts more efficiently when they are out of your head and before your eyes. Writing increases IQ "in use" (not the actual IQ) by supporting memory, abstract thinking, and other brain functions.

Focusing on the subject you write about only saves much time thinking, that is usually wasted if the mind carelessly rambles between different subjects, taking none seriously.

Taking thoughts into action more easily after having been clearly defined. Once you know your target, you can easily aim at it: you just give orders to your body. Thus, you take knowledge more seriously realizing that such simple thoughts crossing your mind casually can become a great force changing your life when they are "focused."

Better expression of your thoughts, as frequent writing helps master language tools and arguing techniques. Writing doesn't increase vocabulary; it improves its usage, which helps memorize and seek new words. The more ideas understood, the more precise words needed to explain them. One word can save us writing many unnecessary lines representing a simple idea (e.g. laconic).

However, being good at writing may create a conflict between content and form, where the priority should always be for content, since we don't perceive our world only verbally: some people have good ideas they can't express, and some have poor ideas they can express; some can't argue for a good cause, and some can for a wrong one. The objective is to get the good in us out, to nurture and improve life with.

Self-Knowledge: You better understand your emotions, fears and desires. Writing is advised by psychiatrists for patients who can't face, understand, or accept themselves. It's a good diversion too, taking a free trip down the mind's endless lanes.

Improvisation: Some ideas ONLY come to you while you write. Many thoughts locked up in your head won't "come out" under normal circumstances, unless given freedom from rules, stereotypes, form, etc. Even subjects that seem at first while difficult, unfamiliar, uninteresting, unimportant, or logically/morally/socially unacceptable, once you start writing about them your attitude changes. In improvisation, you discover new knowledge without reading a book or leaving your place, by traveling the world inside you. However, for more pleasure and benefit, improvisation is better prepared for than completely left to chance.

Learning more:

You learn more from your own ideas than any other source, because they are personal: they are related to your own experiences, sufferings, pleasures, tastes, needs, character, etc., thus more easily retained and REMEMBERED. Writing gives a focused, effective, long-enduring, deep knowledge.

However, since not all ideas in your head are privately yours, writing helps you also learn more from other people's ideas that are better organized by writing. You personalize other people's knowledge (as in writing comments, book reviews, biographies, or a new adaptation/application/variation of an old work). You re-organize others' ideas, connecting the personal with the impersonal, the old with the new, till both are one. Thus when you face the world and receive new knowledge, you know where it fits best in your brain.

Inside/introspective knowledge is more important than outside knowledge, even though it's less: it has more quality than quantity. (It's the water in your cup that you drink, not the entire river.) However, inside knowledge needs frequent exposure to outside knowledge, through reading, interaction, experience, etc. for brainstorming, testing self-acquired knowledge, and feeding one's curiosity. This is vital for faster healthier intellectual growth: life is too short and the universe is too big to ignore looking out at.

Changing other people's life by using the knowledge one has acquired and experienced alone to share with other people too: guiding, teaching, publishing, etc. When addressing others, you become more specific, effective and respected, after organizing your ideas in advance, rather than using other people as a mere sounding-board to one's vague, uncertain, or incomplete thoughts. You needn't even talk, if your writings speak for you. You take your ideas more seriously if you know they can affect other people's lives, which puts even more responsibility on you.


Disadvantages of Writing

Writing can be very addictive, since it's a continuous process of creation that seems without ending, where one feels there is always more to add, delete, rephrase, etc.: we are naturally addicted to "completing patterns." Accordingly, as in other addictions, so much time, self-control and reasoning are sacrificed, negatively affecting one's life:

  • Missing other pleasures in life while one is glued to a screen with a bunch of letters on it. You are too busy taking photographs rather than enjoying the view!
  • Ignoring one's other responsibilities: financial, physical and social responsibilities. You are busy solving other people's problems and finding answers to the greater questions of life, yet you can't fix the leaking faucet keeping you from sleep. Worse still, you may not be fairly paid for the time and energy you invest in writing.
  • Missing other types of knowledge that could've been obtained differently, by reading, free thinking, real-life experiences, or writing about other subjects.

To minimize the damage of the above, one can write about their most pressing problems. By doing so, they at least gather information and find the best solutions, that they can later apply once they are done writing. As for the missed pleasures they can write about such pleasures. The missed types of knowledge can also be made up for by diversifying the topics one writes about. However, one must stop writing completely, whenever they need full attention to something else.

Missing the whole picture and basic "priorities" while one is absorbed in details, which can even flaw the very point one focuses much on or tries to prove.

To avoid this, reading and writing about different topics, taking a break, doing other things, and thinking logically, all help us return to "the general" rules of life and remember its purpose.

Mistakes caused by familiarity with one's own works, caused by over-reading such works, for proof-reading and otherwise, which causes memory bias, making one satisfied with and unaware of the writing mistakes they committed. To solve such problem do the following:

  • Use harsh self-criticism.
  • Don't hesitate to make any changes immediately when needed.
  • Read what you wrote only occasionally, or after reading/writing/doing something else equally absorbing.
  • Expose yourself to others' opinions and respect their criticism, from which to take or discard whatever improves your work.

Slowing down some brain functions, such as imagination and observation, while one is focusing on arguing and using language skills only. Any argument is useless if it doesn't lead to positive action and real change. And any language is useless if it fails to represent meaning correctly: language is only a medium, that may or may not lead to meaning. If the latter, it does more harm than good.

Ignoring unconventional knowledge, such as incomplete, subconscious, personal, experimental, or even absurd ideas, if one writes too formally or to please other people.

This is why it's good to write, at least to oneself, in various styles to get the benefits of each: expressive, descriptive, surreal, impressionistic, parenthetical, fractal, minimalist, or totally non-verbal (graphs, illustrations, etc.). Just as there are different types of intelligence, so are the writing styles that should reflect such differences.

Over-trusting one's knowledge, logic, intelligence ...

  • One may wrongly trust their knowledge of a certain subject only because they wrote excessively about or spent much time on, developing an idle satisfaction while they are still ignorant. They may even trust their knowledge of subjects they never wrote, read or thought about.
  • One may apply the same arguing techniques used in writing a work, to another irrelevant context. For example, after finishing a work, one may feel over-confident in a conversation requiring different arguing skills.
  • When one produces many successful works, one may attribute this to their genius only, ignoring other possible factors: long and hard work, good style, impressive parts, people's tastes, market needs, publicity skills ... and luck.



- "The best way to become acquainted with a subject is to write a book about it."   Benjamin Disraeli

- Montaigne, the politician and father of modern essay, retired from society for years after losing a dear friend, and wrote his full essays then. He was known for repeating the phrase Que sais-je? or "What do I know?" whenever he started a subject new to him.

- Buckminister Fuller, the multitalented American inventor, futurist, writer ... has written the Dymaxion Chronofile, the longest documented human history, 80 meters sq. worth of paper, attempting to record everything in his life.



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