Understanding Through Writing

Writing is a skill we all have. It’s a tool for conveying instructions, ideas, and stories to others in a manner that is understandable and well-thought-out. Though many people miss out on its use as a tool for understanding things on deeper levels.

If you take any topic or idea which you know a decent amount about, writing about it challenges your understanding of it. If you don’t know much about a given topic, you won’t be able to write much and it highlights the holes in your understanding.

When an idea is on paper, flaws in the idea or concept are much easier to find and you’ll find more questions about it which will expand your understanding further. Having a piece of writing you made on any topic or idea also allows you to refine your words and remove unnecessary text, so when you next explain or argue about the topic, you’ll be able to better articulate your points.

With a piece of text you’ve written, it opens it up to criticisms which can either change your mind about something, highlight missing features, or allows you to argue your points more convincingly.

All the points above are reasons why schools and universities ask you to write essays on certain topics. Even if you think you know a topic well, writing about it exposes your true knowledge of the topic and challenges you in a way that makes you think through your thoughts on a topic deeply.

This blog acts as a means in which I can write about a variety of topics, and each time I write about something it forces me to think through ideas more thoroughly, it helps see holes in arguments I make. Afterwards, I’ll remember the topic with much greater detail. If a topic or idea that I’ve written about comes up in conversation, it allows me to better articulate my thoughts on that topic.

One example would be meditation, I’ve never written about it and I felt like I knew a decent amount about it, but when someone asked me what the benefits where I could think of a few reasons but I couldn’t suggest any more nor could I explain the things I mentioned very well. Were I to write about the practice of meditation, reasons for meditating, and how to meditate properly, then it would force me to understand it at a much deeper level, and it will make me research more about it. After writing about it, I’d be more able to talk about it in conversation and argue why it’s useful.

So, how could you use it in your own life? If you ever have a topic which you think you understand alright, try writing about it. Just open a word document or get a pen and paper and start writing. Making mistakes is fine, nobody else has to see what you’ve written. Afterwards, you can reflect and edit what you’ve written to make it more concise. The topic might be a modern political issue like climate change or gender equality, or it could be something more abstract and philosophical. It could be a topic you’re learning about at school or university. Whatever it is, after writing a few hundred or thousand words on it you’ll understand it much better than before.

The same can be applied to your own life, whether you want to understand your feelings better or make a life decision. Say you feel down because of several things in your life have gone wrong. Writing about why you feel down allows you to understand what your feeling better, allowing you to come to terms with it quicker, and also helping you accept the feeling and eventually move on. Should it be a serious issue which you need to seek support about, writing about it first will allow you to talk about it better, so the person helping you has more to work with and can help you more than if you were vague about it. Elucidating your thoughts may even make them vulnerable, crystallising your negative emotions so they become easier to attack and shatter.

Another application to your own life would be in setting plans for the future and creating personal motivation. Consider your life a couple years in the future. What would it look like if you pulled yourself together and achieved the goals you wanted over the next few years. Write about what you would want to achieve in the next few years and how you’re going to get there. Then write about what life would be like should you achieve those goals. Once you’ve written a page or two, then write another page about what your life would look like if you didn’t achieve any of your goals and other things started going wrong in your life.

Seeing the contrast between what you could achieve in a best-case scenario compared to a worst-case scenario will motivate you to achieve those goals. Not because you want to achieve the goals necessarily, but because you want to avoid that worst-case scenario. If you feel like you’re falling behind on your goals several months after you wrote down these scenarios, you can go back and re-read them to hopefully reinvigorate your motivation.

I hope this article explained why writing about things can be so valuable, and simply reading or thinking about a topic doesn’t easily allow you to achieve those higher levels of understanding. Writing allows you to elucidate complicated arguments and forces you to think. It makes you smarter and wiser on whatever you write about. Give it a try sometime, it’s a tool I couldn’t recommend more.