Talk at Backed VC: The benefits of writing [audio]

We had our first mental gym session at Backed VC yesterday with a small group of founders. It was all about mindful productivity, mental well-being, and achieving our goals.

As you know, I’m a big proponent of writing, whether for mental wellness, learning, creativity or personal growth. It’s such a powerful and accessible skill everyone should add to their mental toolbox.

After a short gratitude practice, I gave a short talk about the benefits of writing for makers. Instead of writing an article today, I wanted to try something different and record the talk.

Give it a listen if you want to learn more about these topics explained with a French accent!

Transcript

Okay, who considers themselves a writer in the room? Raise your hand.

Okay, nobody. Unfortunately, Gemma’s not here tonight, but if she was she would have probably raised her hand. She’s a tech and science journalist, she has a book on the way, she fits the traditional definition of what a writer is. And she’s right. She’s a writer.

But, what’s interesting is that everyone in this room is either a product or a project owner.

We spend most of our day improving the design of our services or products, connecting with third parties, replying to emails. We actually write a lot.

So… What’s the difference between someone who view themselves as a writer and everyone else in this room?

The difference is that a writer is intentional when it comes to writing. A writer sees writing as something they do, whereas we see writing as a byproduct of what we do.

We can all be writer by writing in an intentional way.

So, before I give you some tips to build a writing habit, I just want to talk a bit about its benefits. As some of you know, I study neuroscience and I read a lot about writing. So I’m just going to give you a quick rundown of some of the science-based benefits of writing.

First, it will make you feel more relaxed. It’s very interesting and there’s quite a bit of research around this, showing that writing has a positive impact on stress. The basics of this is that, by putting your thoughts out there, by writing them down, you’re basically stopping the rumination—all of those thoughts that you can’t stop yourself from having.

This is why there’s one thing I do sometimes, it’s… So, I have this notebook on my bedside table. And, whenever I’m struggling to fall asleep, which happens quite often—because I’m thinking about my business, what I have to do in the morning—I just write a few bullet points.

It’s not really about writing well, or structuring your thoughts, it’s really just about putting them out there. So you’re telling your brain: “Don’t worry, this is written down, now, you can fall asleep and we can deal with this in the morning.”

So, that was the first one. Writing will make you feel more relaxed.

The second one—and this I think is a very important benefit of writing—is that it will help you learn better. This is because of something that’s called the Generation Effect. By generating your own version of something that you’ve read or something that you’ve watched, you will remember it better.

Again, it doesn’t need to be super structured. You can just take notes. And you can do this while consuming any kind of content. You can do this while reading a blog post, or even while watching Netflix.

And the last thing is that it will increase your creativity. Creativity is basically like a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it becomes. Writing will help your brain make new connections between different things that you’ve learned or experienced. So, writing will increase your creativity.

And, beside all these science-based benefits—basically showing that writing is good for your brain—it’s also a great marketing tool and a way to reach a wider audience. It’s super affordable and super scalable.

Just to give you an example, I wrote more than 50 articles in the past couple of months, on my blog at Ness Labs, and I had more than 80,000 people visit my blog. I didn’t spend any money on this.

This is something that’s good for your brain and that’s also good for your business. So, if you want to write more, there are quite a few things that you can do.

The first one is simply to take notes. As I mentioned, this is great to help you learn and remember stuff that you read. You could also start a blog or start a newsletter—which will help you be more consistent—but writing doesn’t necessarily have to be something you do in order to share it with the world.

It can also be very personal and intimate. You could start journaling for example, or even record your dreams every day when you wake up—you could write a few lines about what you just dreamt about.

If you want to build a writing habit, it’s really all about killing your inner critic. Don’t try to make it perfect. Build your writing muscle. Do it regularly.

I get asked a lot how I managed to write so much and so consistently. This is basically my process.

First, you need to generate lots of ideas. And you need to do it constantly. Don’t wait until you’re sitting in front of an empty document to do this. I have ideas for new articles all the time. I have them during conversations with people, I have stuff while watching stuff online.

My friends actually make fun of me because I would often interrupt them and go: “Hey, wait a second, I’m just going to make a note of this!”

Once you’re ready to write—it’s really good if you put it in your calendar and you block some quiet time to do this—just sit down and put a timer on.

Why do I put a timeron? Well, very often, I will go over the assigned time that I gave myself, but creating that sense of urgency will help you kill that inner critic I mentioned before. You will write more and you will write quicker.

So, cool, you sat down, you put the timer on. Now, it’s time to just pick a topic. Since you have generated lots of ideas and you have a living list of stuff you may want to write about, it’s easy to just pick something that inspires you right now.

Then, create an outline—just a few bullet points—and fill this outline with the content. It’s optional to Google stuff that you don’t know about, but I think it’s actually a good thing to do. This way, you’re kind of standing on the shoulders of giants—other people who have covered the topic before.

There are lots of smart people out there who have written about almost everything, and it’s a good thing to use their knowledge to produce your own articles.

That’s it, that’s how I built my writing habit! I hope that with these techniques you’ll be able to do it too.


Anne-Laure Le Cunff

I’m an ex-Googler, entrepreneur, and part-time neuroscience student at King’s College. If you found this article useful, subscribe to my weekly newsletter about productivity, creativity, learning, and designing engaging products.

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