The Pencil’s Mightier Than The Magic Wand

“Get to the point Matt.”

I’d heard it enough times. From outside my head and inside it too.

I was good at collecting what I’d call, “mostly useless information.” I was crap at figuring out how to make it useful.

I was looking for a magic wand. But that was the wrong piece of wood. All I needed was a pencil.

Having something useful to say starts by finding something usable and then working it into a point. The way I do that is by writing things down.

Daniel Boorstin (the 12th Librarian of Congress) talks about writing as his method for discovering what he thinks. He says,

I write to discover what I think… after all, the bars aren’t open that early.

I know a note on my phone is just a data point until I write something about it. It’s even better if I can make it as casual as a line I’d tell a friend in a bar.

But, even more useful is this idea from Anne Lamott. She takes Boorstin’s point even farther. It’s not a one-off, it’s about keeping the habit (emphasis added)

I still encourage anyone who feels at all compelled to write to do so. I just try to warn people who hope to get published that publication is not all it is cracked up to be. But writing is. Writing has so much to give, so much to teach, so many surprises. That thing you have to force yourself to do, the actual act of writing, turns out to be the best part. It’s like discovering that while you thought you needed the tea ceremony for caffeine, what you really needed was the tea ceremony.

So let me get to the point.

Write stuff down. Form and finish complete thoughts. Work it out on the page (or in the notes on your phone – that’s where I do everything). Do this and you’ll always have something interesting to say. At the bar or the tea ceremony.


ps. I’m participating in Dickie Bush and Nicolas Cole’s online writing course Ship 30 for 30. While some of those posts are definitely going to appear here, find me on Twitter and follow along @cultishcreative