Morgan Housel recently published an article “Why Everyone Should Write“.
Morgan is a partner at the Collaborative Fund, a venture capital fund that focuses not just on investment returns but helping to make the world a better place.
So what qualifies a financial person to talk about the value of writing?
Morgan is a two-time winner of the Best in Business award from the Society of American Business Editors and Writers and a two-time finalist for the Gerald Loeb Award for Distinguished Business and Financial Journalism. He was selected by the Columbia Journalism Review for the Best Business Writing 2012 anthology. In 2013 he was a finalist for the Scripps Howard Award. (from his bio)
In other words, Morgan’s got street cred.
In the article, Housel states that writing crystallizes ideas in ways thinking on its own will never accomplish, and according to Housel, the reason is simple: It’s hard to focus on a topic in your head for more than a few seconds without getting distracted by another thought, and distractions erase whatever you attempted to think about. But words on paper stick.
He goes on to note that putting ideas on paper is the best way to organize them in one place, and getting everything in one place is essential to understanding ideas as more than the gut reactions they often hide as.
Housel also points out that sometimes writing can be encouraging since it can help people realize that they know a topic better than they thought.
However, writing can also be humbling, making us realize that we don’t know as much as we thought. He quotes Warren Buffett:
“Some of the things I think I think, I find don’t make any sense when I start trying to write them down.”
So where does one find ideas to write about?
Housel notes that even professional writers don’t know exactly what they’ll write about until they start writing, because the process crystallizes the fuzzy ideas we all have floating around.
So his advice?
Housel’s post really hit home for me.
I’ve been writing this daily blog for over two and a half years (967 posts to be exact, counting this one), and I remember when I first started my biggest fear would be that I would have nothing to write about it.
Now there are some days when it is hard to come up with something to write about, but at this point, I’m fairly confident that I’ll find something.
I have three primary sources I rely on for ideas.
One is from what I read. I try to read as much as I can, on a variety of topics that are of interest to me. My daily Password (most days) consists of the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer, Fred Wilson, Seth Godin, David Kanigan, Harvard Business Review, Crain’s Philadelphia, SiliconValley.com, and the Onion. I also follow a few people on Facebook, such as Dan Pink, who often have links to great articles (that’s actually where I came across the article by Houser).
A second source of ideas are just my own personal interests. If you’ve followed my blog, you may have noticed that there have been some recurring themes – happiness, social justice, behavioral economics, TV commercials, juggling, music, fitness, education. I may either write something from scratch on one of these topics, or more likely, I’ll read something from one of these areas of interest, and try to add my own perspective.
A final source of ideas is my personal experiences. Whether it’s a day at the beach, a nice dinner out with the family, or a humorous event at work, if I think there is something of value to be written about and shared, I’ll do so.
One of the best things that has come out of writing a daily blog is that it has forced me to read more and to become more aware of things, whether it’s politics, injustice, or the world of exercise.
Writing has also pushed me to live a life filled with more experiences. I’ve found myself more willing to want to try new things, often times part of the motive being that it may offer me something to write about at a later time.
And like Housel notes, writing has forced me to think more carefully about what my thoughts and beliefs are. It’s much easier just to have some vague thoughts floating around your head; writing has helped bring some clarity to those ideas.
My blog has also enabled me to interact with people I never would have otherwise; from a well known local radio DJ, to a family in London who have a son with Williams Syndrome, and to fellow bloggers.
And if you need further encouragement to write, here is a great tweet from Harlan Coben last week. Harlan is a bestselling author of mystery novels, and one of my favorite authors:
Today’s Writing Advice As I Sign Off: Write. Just write. You can always fix bad pages. You can’t fix no pages.
— Harlan Coben (@HarlanCoben) 16 August 2017
So there you have it – the same advice from three highly successful individuals, Morgan, Warren, and Harlan – just write.