I’ve been thinking about writing for a while but have had difficulty seeing the benefit. Usually when people talk about writing, the benefits I often hear are (1) to connect with others and (2) to build a following. Both of these points may have value but the payoff is uncertain and not completely in my control. To warrant writing, I needed to find other benefits which were in my control and likely to happen. With this in mind, I found a few payoffs that satisfy these criteria.
Active recall is the most effective way to persist information into your memory. Writing forces you to actively recall information to write it down. My past experience confirms this. A few years ago I wrote this technical blog post for work. I spent a lot of time getting the details right. This forced me to read into my team’s infrastructure and actively recall that information.
Aside from persisting information, writing also helps me generate more ideas. When I create a rough draft, I start with a thesis, then back up my claims through research and deep thinking. This creative process helps me think of new ideas.
Reducing mistakes in judgement
In Thinking Fast and Slow, Dr Kahneman shows through his Nobel prize winning research that most decisions people make come from your subconscious mind. Your subconscious mind is prone to making mistakes in judgement due to logical fallacies and cognitive biases. Writing forces you to articulate your thoughts and bring them into your conscious mind’s focus. Doing this will improve your judgement by avoiding the mistakes of your subconscious mind.
Learning to write
As your career progresses, the skills needed to deliver the most impact will change. Early in your career, you will likely need to complete work by your own hand while you build the fundamentals. In most cases, doing things yourself can only go so far though. One way to have more impact is to develop the ability to influence others to ship what matters. With less time you’ll be able to get more done and have more impact. Writing is a scalable way of influencing others.
These payoffs are all in my control and guaranteed to happen. Therefore, it’s valuable to write even if only for my own benefit.