Mar 012011
Thinking by Brainloc

Thinking in my head is a messy process. At any one point in time, there are a hundred and one things going on in my mind. These include thoughts, ideas, tasks, worries etc. Although I have no trouble staying focused, it can be hard to manage so many thoughts at once. It is therefore not surprising that ideas rarely turn out the way I imagine when I think in my head. It is only when I write down my thoughts that I can see the picture more clearly.

The Trouble with Thinking

1. Distortion of Thoughts

My thoughts can go through a distortion process in my head. The chief culprit is usually my emotions. The more emotionally invested I am in a situation, the greater the distortion to my thinking. Fear for example can make a problem seem larger than it actually is. Or my enthusiasm may make an idea seem better than it really is in my mind than in reality. All these distortions make it hard for me to think clearly or objectively. This will only lead to trouble when it comes to making good choices.

2. Leaking Brilliance

How many things can you remember when you have a lot going on in your mind? If you are like me, the answer is not many. There is no problem if there are only a few things going in your mind. But if it is a madhouse in there, chances are some ideas will disappear as quickly as you had them. In such cases, it is so easy to forget or overlook certain ideas when you think in your head. The worst part is that these flashes of brilliance might be important. And once they are gone, we may never have them again.

3. Messy Thoughts

Another problem with thinking in your head is messy thoughts. While you might be thinking about some matter, a stray thought might just come along and distract you. Often the more uninteresting the matter is, the more vulnerable you are. Once you lose your train of thought, it may well be difficult to pick up from where you left off.

Also, it can be hard to plan in your head. When you have a difficult goal to reach, it is not easy to work out a detailed plan and to put all the logical steps in place in your head. There is just too much going on at once. Soon, you might find yourself confused and uncertain about how to proceed.

Writing by Kristia

The Benefits of Thinking and Writing

Given the problems I have with thinking in my head, I try to write my thoughts whenever I can. By doing so, I find that I can think more clearly and objectively. Here are the reasons I find thinking and writing helps.

1. An Uncluttered Mind

By writing down all the ideas and thoughts I have, I remove the clutter from my mind. As such, I do not need use up brainpower to remember important ideas. With the capacity that I free up, I can devote my focus to other matters that need my attention. Not only can I resolve the task at hand, I can come back to my notes later to deal with lingering problems. By then, I might just have thought of a solution to resolve the problem.

2. Clarity of Thought

This is my favourite benefit – clarity of thought. When I write down my thoughts, I can see the pros and cons involved. I can also see how feasible an idea really is now that I have brought it out of my head into the real world. Even until this day, I never cease to be amazed at how different an idea might seem on paper compared to when it was in my head. With my thoughts clearly before my eyes, I can make an objective decision about what to do next.

3. Managing Emotions

Sometimes I need an outlet for my emotions. This is especially so if I am going through a difficult time. Here, writing can be a therapy of sorts. By expressing myself on paper, I can detach myself from my emotions and see them in an objective light. As I mentioned earlier, what we think in our heads and how it appears in reality can be quite different. Since it is reality that matters, it may do us good to write to manage our emotions well.

Taking Action

I rarely keep a hand-written journal because my writing fluctuates with my mood. When my mind is not at peace, my writing is really messy. In such cases, it becomes a conscious effort to write legibly so that I can read what I write at a later date. I generally prefer to jot down my thoughts on my laptop where I can edit and update them with ease.

How does writing and thinking work for you? Do you write down your thoughts to manage your thinking? What medium do you use to record your thinking? Are there any other problems you face with thinking in your head? Can you think of any other benefits of writing down your thoughts? Do share your thoughts and comments below. :)

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  18 Responses to “How Writing Helps Thinking”

  1. I journal in different ways. Some I use pen and paper, some on the laptop and others I just draw out my thoughts. I enjoy writing for release of my emotions and thoughts. It helps me feel better. Coupled with reading inspiring blogs such as yours, my days seem perfect :-)
    Evelyn Lim recently posted..7 Winning Life Tips from Top Financial AlchemistsMy Profile

    • Hi Evelyn,

      Thank you for your lovely compliment! I love reading your blog because of the similarity in our thinking as well. :D

      I have never tried drawing myself. Maybe it is because I am not that artistically inclined. It might be something worth looking into as another way of expressing myself.

      Thank you for your support! :)

  2. Hi Irving, another great post, my friend. Years ago, when I was learning to do stand-up comedy to be a better public speaker, I read some books and learned to keep a notepad next to my bed on my night stand. We were instructed to take this notepad with us wherever we went. Whenever a random thought (funny or not) would strike us as odd or awkward or funny, we would write it down. We were also told to journal our thoughts there first thing in the morning as it worked out kinks in our subconscious. It really taught me a lot about getting thoughts OUT of my head and ONTO paper. It can be a valuable exercise! Thanks for your thoughts! All the best, Irving!
    Bryan Thompson recently posted..4 Things You Can Do to Give Your Day Purpose Right NowMy Profile

    • Hi Bryan,

      I think that learning to do stand-up comedy is a great way to be a better public speaker. It is an experience that will definitely make you bolder when it comes to public speaking. Journalling our thoughts whenever we have them is a great way to record our ideas. If we were to do otherwise, it is easy to lose a lot of valuable and useful insights.

      Thank you for your lovely comments! :)

  3. This post is the essence of why I’ve been a writer my entire life. Usually I lose my train of thought, or get distracted, because of memories. It’s not so much emotions that get me hung up as it is bad memories, but I get caught up in the “What If?” game, and go around on “bunny trails” where my mind is lost in a warren of barely-related thoughts and then I can’t remember where I began.

    Freewriting is also another really good exercise to focus your mind. You might start out writing chaos, but you always end up with something useful at the end.

    Delena Silverfox@Coupon Codes recently posted..Hostgator Coupon CodeMy Profile

    • Hi Delena,

      It sucks to get hung up on bad memories. I know the feeling and it can be hard to get out of that rut.

      Freewriting is indeed a good idea. Out of the chaos comes some valuable gems of ideas. I will try more of this and incorporate it into my writing.

      Thank you for your lovely comments and suggestions! :)

  4. I agree absolutely Irving. I have always found that writing things down makes them more real and more accessible. It’s kind of a magical process. Sometimes half a dozen words is enough, it captures the essence that is wanting to be born in my mind or heart.

    I’m very glad you have stepped forward to share your creative processes with your world.
    Christopher Foster recently posted..Aging is a strange thingMy Profile

    • Hi Christopher,

      Yeah the process of transferring thoughts from your head onto paper is a kind of magical process. We can never be sure what will happen and where it will go from there. Such is the creativity of human beings. It is something we should celebrate and appreciate!

      Thank you for your lovely comments! :)

  5. Hi Irving,
    I’m big on journaling. It really helps clarify things for me when everything is a jumble. This past week I’ve had alot going on, so keeping a reminder notebook in my bag has been a life saver. I also find it profoundly cathartic to write something out when I’ve been troubled. For me writing in my journal at the end of the day is what helps me sleep better. I just couldn’t do without it. Thanks Irving for the great post!
    Dandy recently posted..On Seeking ClosureMy Profile

    • Hi Dandy,

      I love how writing things down brings clarity to our lives. There is always so much going on at once anyway and our minds can only cope with so much by itself. I never tried writing at the end of the day to sleep better. But I know how profoundly cathartic it is once we have emptied our minds on paper. So I can understand how writing before you sleep helps you to sleep better.

      Thank you for your lovely comments! :)

  6. Brilliantly written. I write all the time, some for myself and some for others. I also have kind of a journal that I add to every once in awhile, but since I have so many other outlets now journaling has gone on the back side. When I want to start a project I take time to write it all out, even if it’s just outlining everything in Excel so I know the process I want to take. I tend to believe that more people would get projects done if they’d write it out instead of just starting it without a plan. Yup, had to retweet this; nice job!
    Mitch Mitchell recently posted..Trouble With WP Images You May Be Stuck With Some Of ItMy Profile

    • Hi Mitch,

      I love all your examples and uses of writing. They really help to drive home the points that I have been trying to make. I fully agree with you. More people would get projects done if they write it out. It helps to structure and flesh out ideas that began in their head.

      Thank you for your lovely comments and retweet! :)

  7. [...] I have experimented some with using Voice-to-Text using Dragon Speaking Naturally.  It is somewhat quicker than my typing (though there are always errors that need to be corrected).  For something’s it is great, like making lists and goals and sometimes even for blog commenting.  But it really doesn’t work for “real” writing, like eBook and blog posts.  Irving’s post shows why.  The process of writing is not only about getting your thoughts down on paper.  The process of writing is also about clarifying and organizing those thoughts.  Writing helps you think! [...]

  8. I enjoyed reading your take one writing things down. It does really help me to catch juicy material for my writing projects. Otherwise, as you point out, they would just slip through all the holes in my brain!

    Lately, I’ve been writing quite a bit – almost spontaenously – in my journal. I find it’s really helped me understand and release certain emotions. However, I rarely go back and review what I write so I sometimes wonder if I am getting the full benefit. I tend to be impulsive, so I don’t always take the time to plan things out through writing. I did so in my previous work as a manager, but not so much any more. It seems we go through phrases.

    Thanks for exploring this helpful topic.
    Sandra / Always Well Within recently posted..3 Meaningful Links for Personal GrowthMy Profile

    • Hi Sandra,

      During my younger days when I had trouble managing my emotions, I also kept a journal especially for that. I never really took the trouble to read what I wrote, but when I did, I realized it was all rubbish. The mood had already past and my perception of things had changed. I feel that just by writing to release emotions is enough. There is no need to review what you wrote unless there are somethings within that you wish to learn.

      Hmm maybe being a manager made it a necessity to plan. Without that pressing need, you merely stopped doing it. There is really no need to plan for minor matters. But for major ones, it is better to be more cautious.

      Thank you for your lovely comments! :)

  9. Thinking and writing. For me these two processses go hand-in-hand. Writing is an extention of my thinking, while my thinking guides my writing! Hope that makes sense to someone. It does to me! :-D
    Anne Sales recently posted..epc BelfastMy Profile

    • Hi Anne,

      Yeah, it makes perfect sense to me since this is largely the way I operate as well. Thinking and writing do go hand-in-hand as they flesh out my ideas for me.

      Thank you for your lovely comments! :)

  10. [...] things does in a way helps us think clearly as we make an extra effort to organize our thoughts and  taking notes does make things [...]

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