Tyler is a prolific blogger. He finds that setting aside time to focus solely on the topic you're going to write about helps bring clarity to complex topics and causes you to think about them in ways you haven't before. And when you can speak and write articulately about complex matters, others think you are smarter. But can the writing process itself make you smarter? I was intrigued by this idea, so I took the obvious next step: I decided to write about it.
Writing increases engagement in learningWhen I'm not writing regularly, I am more distracted and disorganized, and I'm less motivated to learn new things. In the Psychology Today article How Writing Makes You Happier, Smarter, and More Persuasive, Gregory Ciotti writes:
There’s a certain discipline required to create interesting written work that demands the individual be receptive and focused on finding new sources of information, inspiration, and insight. I’ve read books, listened to podcasts/radio, and watched videos I may have normally put off in order to learn something interesting that I might write about later.Even if you don't love writing, you've probably noticed that researching a problem piques your interest in learning. If you're trying to figure out which car to buy, suddenly you start noticing all the cars on the road, you ask your friends what they like about theirs, and you start reading reviews on websites you might never have visited otherwise. You become engrossed by the topic and start absorbing information about it everywhere, which causes your brain to kick into high gear and exposes you to new information. The research phase of writing not only makes you more informed, it's also a great way to exercise your brain and make it work more efficiently in all areas of your life.
You too, engineersWhile many engineers love to write, many others are terrified to sit down to a blank page that needs to be filled with words instead of code. But writing actually has a lot in common with coding, and it’s critical for your engineering career. Mike Borozdin, VP of Engineering at Ethos Lending who previously worked at DocuSign and Microsoft, said this to Business Insider:
I would advise folks in software to do one thing, and that's write. You need to know how to express yourself. Once you create a successful piece of software, you're probably going to be writing English as much as you're going to be writing Java or Objective C.When you're designing a feature, writing about it helps you see where there are gaps in your understanding and priorities. Do you know why you're creating this feature and what business problem it solves? Can you succinctly explain its purpose and how it works? By organizing your assumptions and conclusions in a document that you share with other stakeholders, you can be sure that you're coding it right the first time and that everyone is working from the same understanding. In other words, you'll work smarter, not harder.
Once your feature is released, writing becomes even more important. According to Borozdin, whenever his software went viral, he ended up writing probably 10 times more documentation and answers to questions than he wrote code. Writing not only leads to success; it's required once you achieve it.
Feedback is keyIt's important to know the basic rules of punctuation and grammar and to take time to structure your writing so that it flows in a logical way. (Although flawless grammar and punctuation are not always critical for conveying meaning, typos can affect how people interpret the emotion of your emails, and at worst they can lead to costly or even fatal mistakes.) Your writing should be easy to understand and not violate the hiccup rule: if you have to stop mid-sentence and re-read the sentence, it has caused you a mental "hiccup" and should be rewritten.
But have you ever carefully reviewed what you wrote (the answer to this should always be "yes") and were surprised when someone spotted a typo you completely missed? When you read your own writing, your brain fills in the gaps, making it hard to spot your mistakes. So no matter how exceptional a writer you are, get your work reviewed. Even professional editors hire editors, because they know it's the only way to improve their writing.
When you receive the feedback, put yourself in an open, non-defensive state of mind, read the feedback carefully and thoroughly, and ask questions if you don't fully understand it. You want to take in the feedback and learn from it, not just mindlessly make the corrections people give you. Over time, you'll hear those comments in your head as you're writing new content, and your writing will get better and better. This will cause people to perceive you as more intelligent than people who make frequent errors. And even though research shows there's no correlation between poor spelling and intelligence, striving for clear and accurate communication is just plain smart.
The bottom lineIn summary, a regular writing practice stimulates your brain, makes you more informed, helps you work more efficiently, and helps others see you for the smart person you truly are. So pick a topic and go!
In my next blog post, I'll outline the fundamental steps for starting and completing a writing project. In the meantime, check out my previous posts for tips on grammar, punctuation, and the joys of writing.