How often do you say or think a sentence like these?
“I need to write today.”
“I’ve been writing a thousand words a day.”
“I’ve written half my book so far.”
Writing is what online solopreneurs do: We translate thoughts into words and send them out into the world.
Sometimes we even get so caught up in word counts and writing goals and how many pages we’ve knocked out that we forget a crucial point:
Writing is only a tool.
The act of writing is the vehicle we choose to move ideas from our heads to the heads of others. It’s a means by which we accomplish an end. It is not the end in and of itself.
Case in point: Writing isn’t the only tool that will get an idea across. Artists and photographers communicate through visual mediums. Musicians turn to sound. Dancers turn to movement. Speech, signs, and gestures are all ways to convey an intended message. Someone fluent in more than one modality may even be able to express the same idea through several different channels.
In the online space, writing is useful and ubiquitous and convenient, so we turn to it again and again. But to keep it from feeling stale, we should remember that we aren’t writing just to write. There’s a bigger goal underneath.
The point of writing is communication.
When you write that email to your client, you take some bit of information — thought, fact, feeling, idea, perspective — and transmit it, through writing, to the person with whom you are working.
On social media, you send some piece of your perspective to your fans and followers with every share. Same with blog posts, newsletters, and website copy.
It’s all about getting something from your head into someone else’s head using a system you’re both familiar with — in this case, writing.
In other words, it’s about communication.
The goal is the same even when you’re writing for yourself.
Here’s where things really get fascinating.
You might think that writing notes and lists for yourself doesn’t share the goal of communication. It totally does, though. You’re writing to communicate with yourself.
Consider a to-do list. When you write it, you’re translating the jumble in your head into an orderly form you can make use of. The message sender and the message receiver may be the same person, but the tool used to facilitate the communication — writing — is the same.
These are just some of the benefits of writing things down that you’ve no doubt noticed:
- You gain some clarity around whatever you’re writing down. With a to-do list, that might be what you need to do when and in what order. It’s no longer stuck in a vague mental mess but laid out in clear, discrete chunks.
- You get a little distance from the things you record. You can look at the information you’ve assembled, rearrange it, flesh it out. You’re no longer trying to remember 20 things at once, so you have space to consider connections, relationships, and other higher-level aspects of your work.
- You’re able to refer to your notes later. It’s like present you is communicating with future you — and then later, when you refer to those notes, it’s past you speaking to present you. (Whoa.)
But even if you’re on board with the whole “communication as the goal of writing” idea, you might find yourself wondering why it matters.
How does seeing writing as a means rather than the end make a difference in what you do?
It’s kind of like goal setting. Consider these two primary kinds:
- Goals set for the sake of having a goal
- Goals tied to a bigger, deeper why or purpose
Which one are you most likely to achieve? For most people, the answer is #2. Having an overarching reason behind pursuing a goal changes the game. Your intention carries you through, makes you more aware, keeps you in touch with the higher purpose of what you’re doing.
Writing with the awareness that your ultimate intention is to communicate is like setting a goal that’s backed by a solid why. You might find yourself more motivated to keep at it. You might discover you’re paying more attention to how you convey your message. However it shows up for you, tying the tool of writing to the purpose of communicating with your audience will only improve your skills.