How Writing Shapes Thought

By Elisa Doucette | Articles | Reading Time: 7 minutes

Dec 12
writing shapes thought

Writing allows you to get your thoughts out of your head and onto paper or an electronic device.

When we write, our goal is to express our vivid thoughts in a disciplined manner. The images that we see in our head must be verbalized in a manner that brings them into a reality.

Look at George R.R. Martin. A Song of Ice and Fire, also known as Game of Thrones was about a vast world that existed only within his mind. His imagination created this huge world full of magic, political scheming, and hundreds of characters interwoven into an epic story.

Now what does he have?

Four books, a hugely popular television show adapted from his books, and two more highly anticipated books that have yet to be finished.

You could say that writing was a gift and a curse for Martin. It brought him international fame, but now he is pressured by the public to finish his books. His creative mind took him deep into a world that he is struggling to navigate towards its end.

You might want these problems – being a famous writer that has worldwide fame for your written works does have a pretty good ring to it. But just as Martin is struggling to bring an end to an epic story, you may be struggling to write your first book.

Establishing a Writing Process

What exactly does this mean?

I remember when I used to be a writer who would just jump into an article, without outlining what I was supposed to write about, and with little research being done on the subject.

I believed that I was a good enough writer to just write off the top of my head. I soon realized doing this only dragged a 500-1000 word article out for days. Trying to think and write at the same time led to being easily distracted. My brain couldn’t sustain the overload of trying to think out the article in my head for long periods of time while also trying to write it. I’d eventually have to stop.

This quick rest led to hours being wasted. But hey, I could just get to it later right?

This habit significantly hindered my writing output and my quality of writing. As a writer, I was sabotaging my own career.

Now that I have started to outline the topics within my articles, I am able to write freely, without having to constantly stop to think about what I am going to write next.

It wasn’t the act of writing that was hard, it was the fact that I didn’t effectively manage my writing process. I didn’t think before I started writing.

I take more care with my writing process than I used to. Before, I wanted to get my message across without ensuring my writing was precise, effective, and detailed – the factors that combine together to make you a great storyteller.

I still make my mistakes when writing: not adding supporting paragraphs, grammatical errors (sorry, didn’t get a degree in English), and sometimes procrastinating till the last minute.

But I am more passionate about writing than I was in the past. This is due to the fact that I am better at organizing my thoughts and effectively articulating them to my reading audience. This was achieved by:

  • Outlining my articles before writing them
  • Setting a specific timeframe to write an article
  • Eliminating distractions when writing
  • Forcing myself to write, even when my brain isn’t active with creative thoughts
  • Writing everyday

Ways to clear your mind and write

One reason that we stall during the writing process is because we want the words we write to be perfect.

If the sentences are not effectively flowing together or the subject isn’t fleshed out perfectly, it causes us to stop writing — choosing to wait for a better time when our mind is fully functional.

The problem is that this only delays the writing process, and it conditions us to seek refuge and quit whenever we are having a hard time writing.

I have been guilty of doing this myself. Whenever I was having a hard time writing, I would browse the internet or watch tv. I would say that I was only relaxing my brain in order to work better, but it was just an excuse to get out of working.

The best way to write is to force yourself to write. Writing is an exercise that improves with consistent repetition. As a writer, you should be writing thousands of words per day.

This practice helps you to not only increase your word output, but it also helps to expand your mind, which makes you a more effective writer.

It is better to write 2000 words that clearly articulate your subject matter than to write 3000 words that are repetitive and form no connection with the subject you are writing about.

You don’t want to write a bunch of words just to say you wrote 3000 words. What does writing a lot of incoherent words prove?

I used Martin as an example earlier. His readers have commented that his epic story could have (should have) been finished years ago. But his story got beyond its original scope, and it has become hard for him to tie all the storylines together to reach the ending.

While A Song of Ice and Fire is an intriguing epic, it has been accused of being all over the place. Unless you’re an author with international fame, you can’t afford to not be precise when writing.

Your creative thoughts are allowed to be big and without parameters, but your writing must reign in your creative thoughts by giving them structure. Otherwise, no one will understand what you are saying, as they aren’t living inside your head.

Breaking ideas down into manageable pieces

Creative thoughts tend to run through our minds at random. They aren’t provided with a section by section overview of how they work. That’s your responsibility, to take a big idea and explain in detail what combines together to produce it.

When you have an idea for a book, all you have in your head is the subject matter and the purpose of the book. The chapters that reinforce the overarching narrative are not already outlined in your head. In order for the book to come into existence, you will have to expand your idea by digging deeper into it, proposing chapters that support your big idea.

An an unarticulated thought is very likely flawed. It is confused because it is combined with a cluster of other unarticulated ideas, which grow in number as you continue to reflect. It’s only when we write down our thoughts that we can begin to disentangle them, see how they’re different from one another, and see how they might fit together. It’s helpful to think of the writing process as applied thinking.

By getting them down on paper, you’re acting on your thoughts.

Writers are more inclined to get things done because their ideas are always present in front of them – reminding them of their purpose. Those who don’t write their ideas out just remain thinkers – never putting their dreams in motion.

But even writers can go through periods when their creative process is stifled. After so many articles written and having to deal with the pressures of the week, I myself am struggling to write this article.

As a writer, you will need outlets to express your thoughts in ways other than professional projects. Constantly working within a structured writing environment and working with specific guidelines can stifle your creativity.

Freestyle Writing

Writing without structure allows you to get your thoughts out of your head with no hesitation. You are not pressured by mandatory guidelines and you have the freedom to truly express yourself.

You can freestyle write online and benefit from the feedback of the virtual crowd, or you can choose to only write your thoughts in a private setting.

  • Blogging: Before blogging became a profitable business, it was used as a form of communication for people to just express themselves and share their thoughts with the online public. There are people who still blog purely to get their thoughts out of their head. It is a form of therapy that allows you to think more clearly once you declutter your brain of all the quirky ideas that run through it.
  • Journaling: Your mind tends to be weighed down with a lot of stress, so it is helpful to have a release method that allows you to clear your head of all its toxic thoughts. Writing in your own private journal allows you to write without any restrictions, to be as free with your thoughts as you want to be. There is absolutely nothing holding you back from purging your mind of all its contents.
  • Emailing Peers/ Mentors: Communicating with people in the same line of work as you helps you find out how others get through tough writing periods. You can also bounce your ideas off of them, which helps you to see things from a different perspective. They can help you gain better focus, steering your writing in a better direction.

Once you get in your creative zone when writing it can seem as if you can write 10,000 words with no problem. Your mind is just bursting with ideas and you eagerly want to write them down. You want to act on your thoughts by getting them on paper.

The Power of Writing

Have you noticed that writers are some of the most creative people in the world.

We all have imaginations, which gives us the ability to see images that do not exist in our reality. Some people simply daydream all day. Writers on the other hand, choose to explore the depths of their imaginations.

The movies and television shows you watch are developed from the imagination of a writer. The fiction books you read, that form images in your head based off the words you read, were developed from the imagination of a writer. Writers are the people who give the world the entertainment that allows them to escape from their reality. Writers are responsible for fueling the imagination of others.

When a writer is taking their imagination out of their head and placing it in the world, they have to be masters with their use of words. It is one thing to simply write words but it is an art to effectively put words together and bring them to life.

I believe that is what we are all chasing as writers – the ability to say our writing woke up the imaginations of people or motivated people to change their lives for the better.

Your job as a writer is to be effective at expressing your ideas. You write to engage others – having them see the world through your eyes. In order for this to occur, your creative mind will need to be released of all constraints.

Writing can be difficult at times, but if you remain persistent and force yourself to write, the bad days start to become a rare occurrence.

Photo Credit: danr13

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About the Author

Elisa Doucette is a freelance writer and editor who currently travels the world looking for great stories to live, interesting tales to share, and new ways to make words sexy. She has worked for over a decade creating compelling content and writing for various businesses and publications, including her popular column on Forbes called Shattering Glass. She is the Founder and Executive Editor here at Craft Your Content.