Writing isn't something that only writers do. It's a basic skill for getting through life. We write to explain, and we write to explore. When explaining, we also help clarify concepts to ourselves. When we explore, we push the boundaries of what we know and think about – changing the way our minds work.
Writing is a form of thinking – it's “thinking on paper” and anybody who thinks clearly should be able to start writing clearly about any subject.
But many people are afraid of writing – of communicating private thoughts publicly – because we're not sure our private thoughts are valid. But if we’re able to embrace the vulnerability, then we can find a way to wrestle with any topic and gain more confidence and mastery.
Explaining and exploring concepts, from the scientific to the social, can be an exciting way to learn more and crystallize our understanding into a lasting artifact. At any time, we can pick a topic that we don't know much about – like cryptocurrency or the tort law system – and write about it two until we have a clearer picture. We can even take different sides of a debate and explore new perspectives (maybe from an anonymous account if we want it to be public).
Writing isn't the hard part of this. The hard part is the vulnerable voyage into the self, as we clarify and challenge our thinking as we express it with real words. Our goal should just be to say things that are true, as simply as we can. We should start by figuring out what a novice should know about a topic, and then communicate that before moving on to the next thing. Word by word, this can compound into a book or a larger article that can even prove an advanced grasp of a topic, and be genuinely educational to others.
In a world where written content production seems so cheap (even computers can generate it now), we shouldn’t give ourselves more reasons not to write. The activity of writing is fundamental to civilization and it’s how we make intellectual progress together.
Here are some tips to start writing to learn:
- Above everything, try to be simple and clear.
- Try to pick a topic you enjoy learning and writing about, because the reader (if we’re lucky to have any) will feel our zest. How we feel oozes through our writing.
- Try to be brief. Brevity is the sign of organized thinking.
- Avoid technical terms that can hide meaning, or vague language (like “etc”) that replaces concrete examples.
- Be consistent by blocking out time as often as you can to write. Maybe as much as an hour a day.
- Embrace imitating others. One of the best ways to improve writing is to model our writing on others, and then deviate when it’s authentic to do so. We can start by mimicking others and later make the subject our own. This molds both our writing and our thinking processes.
- Write and edit for yourself. Every reader is different, and you can't write for everybody. But you can assume that if something is interesting to you, and you enjoy writing about it, that other people find it interesting and will want to hear about it as well.
- Don’t be afraid to move on once finished. Writing is a means of growth, and our perspectives change over time. Publish and move onto the next piece without getting stuck.
Since Mirror launched Writing NFTs, we could think of Mirror as a place to “write-to-earn”. But I really love seeing people in the community writing to learn. We can all become better thinkers and communicators by improving our thinking through writing.
When we write to learn, we find out what we think and want to say, and how our views are different from others. This even makes us better conversationalists! I can’t imagine a more worthwhile thing in life than to improve thinking, knowledge, and conversation. It improves every interaction, and it lasts our entire lives.