Yesterday I was reflecting on the progress that I have made writing daily. I have publish a new essay (almost) every day for the last month or so, and have received some very positive feedback on a number of my essays. However, my introspection also allowed me to realize that sometimes it takes me a while to figure out what to write about — there are plenty of topics, but there are only a few which I am able to write about in depth. My main goal of writing daily is to train my brain — to help me think. I want to synthesize information from different sources — calls, emails, articles, interviews — and form my own opinion about a certain topic. Overall, I write for mental clarity. In my introspection, I felt as if I had no philosophy on what specifically to write which made it difficult for me to select the write topics to cover each day.
Upon further reflection, I came up with the philosophy of “writing what I wish I had read.” This is a very open-ended philosophy and does not specify any subjects, but it helps guide me in my writing and serves as a source of inspiration whenever I am thinking about what to write. The reason I adopted this philosophy is that there are a lot of things that I have learned which have taken a long time to understand, for various reasons — lack of access to high-quality information being the most prominent. Especially in the Income Share Agreement industry — the field I study — there is very little high-quality information available. I want each of my articles to be something that I would have benefited from reading when I was trying to learn about a topic. In the context of this blog, I like to talk about my experiences through life and share information which I would have loved to read at the time of learning something new.
There are a few benefits of adopting a writing philosophy. The first benefit is that, as aforementioned, a clear philosophy gives you a guide on what to write. In writing, it can be very difficult to choose a subject. Before adopting a writing philosophy, I would sometimes have two or three different prompts and not be satisfied with any of them. Why? I had selected interesting topics that perhaps I didn’t have enough experience with to write an effective article. Most writers find it difficult to choose a topic. Adopting a writing philosophy helped guide my way of thinking about new topics. I thought to myself “What have I learned recently?”, and then asked “What would I like to have read when I was learning that subject?”. This gives me a clear indication of the topics I should be focusing on, and ensures that all of my prompts are about a topic I feel qualified to cover.
Another benefit of adopting a writing philosophy is that it helps me feel more attached to my writing. My blog is a very personal outlet for my knowledge and thoughts. Indeed, I have covered topics such as purpose and advice which perhaps adopt a more personal tone than other articles available on the internet. By having a writing philosophy, I am able to feel more connected to my thoughts because I know that, in the case of my philosophy, all of the topics I have chosen are something that I find interesting, and think would add value to someone else’s life.
Whatever your philosophy is, it will help make you feel more personally invested in your writing — you have an emotional attachment through the form of a philosophy and belief about your writing. If your philosophy is to “help advance the knowledge of investment bankers in the topic of X”, you will feel closer to your writing than if you randomly select topics and decide which one is best. The main benefit of feeling closer to your writing is that it will help with consistency. Even on the days where you don’t feel like writing, you know that you have made a commitment to writing through a philosophy, and have a clear guide as to potential topics you could cover. Philosophies clarify the position of writing in your life because they force you to consider why you write. In my case, I write because I want to fill in some knowledge gaps online. If I am not satisfied with the content available on a topic, then I often write an article or blog post about it. On other occasions, perhaps there is a bias in a lot of content available on a subject, and so I write about the opinion I hold to allow others to understand that all opinions are valid.
The first step to developing a writing philosophy is to take a step back and consider your motivations for writing. If you are a young person who is making very important career decisions, then perhaps your writing philosophy will embody the spirit of sharing your thoughts on careers as you navigate these decisions. There is also a great imbalance of content online between “professional” career advice, and the actual experiences of people who are making career choices, so this would be a great motive. It is important to acknowledge that everyone will have different motives. For some, it will be about achieving mental clarity. For others, it will be about sharing their opinions. For other people it will be to relax and share their thoughts. When you evaluate your motivations for writing, then you will be able to gain a firmer insight into what you expect from yourself, and your overall aims. As these thoughts become clearer, you will be able to formulate a more informed writing philosophy.
Writing philosophies can also be in a lot more depth than the one I mentioned. Some people may adopt several philosophies based on the way in which they like to write. One secondary philosophy I have developed, for example, is to not expect too much of myself in my essays. This means that I am not expecting each day to write a long-form essay about a subject — my goal is simply to publish an essay. I don’t expect for there to be no mistakes — everyone makes mistakes. I just expect that I try my hardest and consistently publish new content. As I continue to publish new content, I will be able to refine my skills, and so the likelihood for mistakes is lessened. No daily essay is perfect, but instilled in all of them is my writing philosophy. I wrote about purpose because I was having a hard time figuring out my own purpose at the time, and a lot of the content available was irrelevant (at least to my life). I wrote about learning to fail because I recognized the importance of embracing failure, and thought that there was not enough content online which specifically addressed the subject.
Writing is a very powerful thing. Writing is perhaps the most optimal way in which you can clarify your thoughts. You can explore any subject in-depth and discuss the arguments you have been thinking about on paper, rather than in your mind. You will end up deleting some text, and improving it with new ideas as your knowledge of the subject becomes more comprehensive. You will create new mental connections — and destroy old mental connections — which will help you create more original ideas in the future. Writing gives you the opportunity to share those thoughts as well — the whole world can be your audience.
The democratization of the internet means that there is a place for any small niche. Having a writing philosophy will help ensure that you keep writing, and understand why you do it. The main thing to take away from this is that all writing matters, and having a personal writing philosophy makes it easier for us to internalize that fact, and keep our eyes focused on what matters to us — clarity of mind, sharing our thoughts, et cetera.
Think about why you write. Develop a writing philosophy. Write.