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Writing is More Than Just Words on Paper

When I got back from summer holidays in the US in 2001, my dad told me to write about my holiday experience.

Back in the Lagos humid heat, I wrote something short and wanted to be done with the “assignment.”

My dad read my 2-page paper and said “you went to Chicago for 2 months and all you can write is a two page paper?”

In my mind I thought: “you didn’t tell me what the minimum word requirements were.”

You know what followed. 

The African parent lecture that usually starts with “when I was your age…..”

Then he goes on listing all the privileges I had that he didn’t have access to.

Food everyday.
Sleep every night.
Roof over your head.
Boarding international flights.

He told me to go write it again.

I didn’t know how long to go, so I recounted everything. 

By the time I was writing on the 7th page in my notebook, we hadn’t even left the house in Ikeja to head to the airport. I was not leaving out any details this time around.

Then something happened.

The more I wrote, the more I enjoyed recounting my experience.

I remembered things I had forgotten, reliving those memories sparked new memories and understanding.

I wrote almost a full book of my experience.

When I handed it to him, I could tell he was surprised, but he didn’t express it. (as a said African parents)

This moment was my first glimpse into the joy of writing.

Write, Write, Write!

School might have ruined writing for me and maybe you too.

Writing is seen as something only writers do. An intellectual task reserved for academics, lawyers, or linguists.

It is hardly seen as a task that can bring health and joy the same way exercise does.

A lot of us remember writing tasks from school.

Traumatized by the judgment of teachers that graded our writings, writing became something that we did to get good grades.

Before your ball point ink makes a single mark on fresh paper, you are already thinking about the end results.

“I need to only write down A+ material, otherwise what’s the point?”

Over the years, we internalize this judgment from teachers, parents, and peers, becoming our own biggest critics.

We only write when there is a direct external reward attached to it.

“A pat on the back from the boss for a well-structured presentation”
“A best-selling novel that’s talked about by everyone”
“A properly manicured Linkedin post”

“Objection, Objection!” I hear the yell from the courtroom of prose and literature. 

“But I don’t care about all that. I want to write but I just don’t have the time”

“Time is not the issue, people will judge what I write.” Another critic in the literary courthouse yells as they fling the paper across the desk.

ORDER, please! The wooden gavel comes down.

I hear you. The truth is:

Writing is the foundation of every intellectual task.

In a world focused on productivity, we’ve been made to believe that writing is done only to transfer information from one person to another. 

In reality, writing is more about creating information.

It’s about bringing order to the chaos in your universe and finding joy in the simple things. 

Most importantly, writing forces you to think for yourself and articulate your ideas effectively. This skill is only getting more important as we dive deeper into the ocean of information in a noisy automated world.

Writing is not just words on paper.
Writing is thinking.
Writing is life.

5 Benefits of Writing

As a business owner, I was forced to adopt writing as a necessary skill. 

It started off when I started writing a blog for my business in 2015. It was necessary to get discovered by the search engine giant – Google.

That then morphed into conversion writing. 

How about nurturing those prospects to customers with a drip email campaign? I learned how to write persuasive emails. All these learning required classes, mentors, and investments.

I was writing for the outcome of financial reward.

But when I wasn’t writing for the business, I would still scribble in my notepad. I would write down a few stanzas of poetry that came to me in the afternoon. I would journal early in the morning.

The more I did it, the more I realized that writing was becoming an important part of my life – even without the external financial reward.

When you understand that writing has benefits that will help you live a more fulfilled life, you will embrace it some more.

You’ll use it to facilitate both personal and inter-personal growth.

Here are 5 benefits of writing:

1. Writing is thinking

Writing is more than just words. It is about thinking.

Writing is not the main work. 

Thinking is.
Understanding is.
Elaborating is.

Writing is a tool that fosters intellectual growth.

The best way to learn anything for the long term is to write it down. That’s why some experts advise to read with a pen handy.

The best way to organize ideas is to take notes of them.

The best way to generate new ideas is to connect ideas in your notes.

Overcoming the blank page is not the work, writing ideas down isn’t either. 

Arranging these ideas into a linear thought process or a draft manuscript can be achieved with a system. That isn’t the work.

The real work, which ChatGPT can’t help you with, is thinking your own thoughts.

“If there is one thing experts agree on, then it is this: You have to externalize your ideas, you have to write.”

~ Sonke Anrens, Author of How To Take Smart Notes

Write to externalize your thoughts.

The page with your words is just a reflection of your thoughts. The real task you are doing is thinking. Writing is a tool to facilitate thinking.

2. Writing is understanding

Writing is more than just words for someone to read. 

It’s about understanding life.

I was moving a few years ago and found a stash in a couple of old Nike shoe boxes. It was a stash of black notepads.

I’ve been writing in these moleskins for over 10 years now.

I always have one handy.
Ready to jot something down.

I hardly read them afterwards. I use them to process what’s on my mind at that moment.

They offer a sense of reflection.

Writing provides a disciplined mode of self-expression.

It allows you to record experiences and events so that they can be recalled in the future.

It’s a self-communication tool that brings understanding to your experiences.

“if the only point to writing were to transmit information, then it would deserve to become obsolete. But the point of writing it is to create information, not simply to pass it along.”

~ Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Author of Flow 

Until you write a new concept you encounter in your own words and contextualize it to your life, you will not fully grasp the new idea.

Write to gain more understanding.

3. Writing is enjoyment

Write to enjoy your life

I met an acquaintance at a friend’s baby shower.

After a few pleasantries had been exchanged and the awkward pause that begged for the next word, she blurted out: “so just like writing”

My instinct was to respond: “no, its hard work and dedication”

Well I didn’t say it like that. I kept it light. I mean we were surrounded by balloons and cakes.

A few years later, I realized that I wrote to enjoy the experience.

Nothing brings more order to the chaos than naming something. With naming and categorizing things, we can record, document, and experiment.

This is the building blocks of science – that eternal quest for knowledge.

Writing is a symbolic system we use to think.

It is the foundation with which Pythagoras built up and connected art, geometry, science, music, and mathematics.

Developing symbolic systems brings order to the chaos and mastery of the pursuit can provide its own flow benefits.

Some of the great thinkers think for the pleasure of thinking.

Just like Democritus, the ancient Greek philosopher, who enjoyed thinking about the structure of reality so much that people thought he was ill. Hippocrates, the great doctor said about him “he was not losing his mind. He was lost in the flow of thought.”

Writing as a tool for thinking can give you an optimal experience.

“It is important to stress here a fact that is all too often lost sight of: philosophy and science were invented and flourished because thinking is pleasurable”

~ Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Author of Flow 

Write to bring pleasure and growth to your life.

4. Writing is a shield

Write to develop your shield from the chaotic world.

One of the most influential books I read in my 20s was Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search For Meaning.

While in the brutality of the Nazi concentration camps, he kept his sanity with what he later coined as logotherapy, based on the premise that the motivational force for an individual is to find meaning in life.

In that camp, he found meaning by striving to see his wife again. He developed his own system.

Captured Africans that were shuttled in cramped ships across the Atlantic ocean for trade developed their own systems too – through words, rhythms, and chants.

It is true that playing with ideas is pleasurable on its own but developing your own coded system that helps you understand reality better is important for survival.

Developing an internal symbolic system brings order to an expanding and chaotic universe.

It is said that Iceland has the most poets per capita.

Some experts believe that they used rhymes, stanza, to tell stories that brought order to the harsh and cold environments they navigated.

You can develop an internal symbolic system with writing to guard from the harsh realities of a sometimes cold and uncaring world.

“Whenever the outside world offers no mercy, an internal symbolic system can become a salvation”

~ Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Author of Flow 

Whether you are writing, painting, singing, building a business, or doing AI prompting, you can develop your own internal symbolic system that helps you bring order.

5. Writing is beauty

Write to create information. 

Do it for the love of the art of conversation and dialogue.

When I write and make music, I do it for the experience at that moment. When I share it and it resonates with others, it brings an added joy.

A validation of shared reality.
A love of dialogue.

One of the most accessible symbolic systems are words.

Combining systems and symbols can generate new ideas, bring insights, and order to your consciousness.

That’s why wordplay is so pleasurable.

When children come about wordplay, it’s like an unlock that the same things can mean something else in a different context.

“Having grandma over for dinner” means two different things that amuses children.

The art of dialogue brings optimal experiences. Conversations acknowledge that you’re both experiencing reality the same way.

The phrase “it’s a good day” is a ritual to bring order about the state of things. 

It’s not really to pass on the obvious information that the weather is nice. It’s a confirmation that “we are both experiencing this good thing, right?”

Poetry brings that order and beauty with its meter, rhythms, and rhymes.

Write for the joy and the art of the conversation. 

Final Thoughts

Writing has many benefits beyond the transfer of information.

Forget fortune and fame, we remain motivated when we are driven by intrinsic rewards.

One of the best ways to nurture intrinsic motivation is to develop an internal symbolic system.

This could be drawing, painting, making music, pursuing science, or playing sports.

All these activities can provide their reward from the joy of just participating in it.

That’s what writing is.

Writing is the foundation of most intellectual tasks. A symbolic system of naming, labeling, and categorizing.

By developing a writing practice, you will develop your critical thinking ability, understand your life better, develop a mental shield from chaos, enjoy your growth, and be aware of the beauty of nature around you.

Write for yourself.

Who is Nifemi?

Hey I’m Nifemi of NapoRepublic

I help busy people fit in a creative practice to bring to bring order to their reality and help them live a more meaningful life through writing and reflection.

Sculpt your story

Know thyself, build a second brain, and unleash your creativity with writing. All in one journaling, note-taking, and dots-connection method that fits into your busy life.