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Putting words to the music

Writing: Putting words to the music‘You become more… observant. You think, ‘Well, that’s interesting. Why is that interesting? I might write about that. What do I think about that? What do I want to say about that?’’ – Euan Semple, World-Changing Writers Online Summit

‘It seems to me that what writing does for me is two things. It forces me to give form to the formless. I could just bliss out a lot. I could just hang out and connect and listen to people and be a space in which they get more creative and perform better and do better in their lives. Writing… makes me put words to the music. Then you’ve got a song.’ – Michael Neill, The Extraordinary Business Book Club, episode 11

‘Most of the people I know who are good at writing are good at thinking. I’m going to argue that the writing makes you a better thinker not just that good thinkers become writers.’ – Seth Godin, The Extraordinary Business Book Club, episode 28 (released 26 September)

Like these business gurus, I believe that writing is an important practice for business leaders and entrepreneurs, that it has a value way beyond all the practical business benefits of establishing expert authority, increasing discoverability and building trust.

What happens when you write?

The fact is that writing changes us. It takes us below the surface of the superficial thinking and communicating we do every day to something deeper and more valuable. It helps us, it forces us to notice thoughts and beliefs and connections and intuitions we didn’t know were there until they appear on the page in front of us when we’re in flow and we read back and say, ‘Aha! Of course!’ and occasionally, ‘Who wrote this? This is brilliant.’ And once you’ve seen, you can’t unsee. You take that new understanding and clarity back into the world of action and busyness, and you think and behave differently because of it.

A similar thing thing can happen when we’re speaking, the insights can appear and surprise us. But when we speak, it happens in real time. We can’t’ slow the pace if we need to, and the thread of the thought is gone almost as it appears (unless we record it). When we speak, we don’t tend to own the thinking space as we do when we write. That can be a good thing: sometimes the other person or people are the flint we need to strike our spark.

But for sustained thinking and for exploring an insight, one of those elusive seen-out-of-the-corner-of-my-eye insights, the noise and speed of conversation are no good. They scare them away. Writing gives space and quiet for the shyest, deepest, most original parts of us to emerge into the daylight, without the fear of being prematurely judged. How do we know if an idea has any value, any truth until we’ve articulated it? We need space to find out what it is we think before we risk putting it in front of someone and saying, ‘Is it any good?’

Think like a writer, and everything becomes grist to the mill. A bad day becomes a good story. Developing a writing habit forces us to reflect on what happens, on our own decisions and actions and those of others. And as Socrates so memorably put it, ‘The unexamined life is not worth living.’

Your book is your writing habit writ large. One of the unexpected gifts it will give you is more clarity in your business strategy, a deeper understanding of your message and your place in the world, and the way you put that across in every aspect of your communication.

That’s certainly proving true in my 10-day business book proposal challenge at the moment: someone’s just written in the group:

‘For the first time ever I can clearly say what I do for a living and who I AM.’

Try it.

Take an aspect of your business that isn’t quite clear – your target market, what it is that makes you distinctive, how an idea you’ve just had or something that’s just happened in the world impacts on your field, whatever – set the timer for 25 minutes and just write about it. Or dictate, if you prefer. The only rule is that you have to keep the words coming (you might find it more effective to use pen and paper rather than typing, depending on how your brain is wired). Nobody’s going to see this raw material, it’s just you and your ideas. But if you’d like to share the result, I’d love to hear it! Why not drop me a line: alison@alisonjones.com or just post a comment here.

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Alison Jones

Alison is a book coach and publishing partner for businesses and organizations with something to say. She hosts the Extraordinary Business Book Club podcast.
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