Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald made writing look like a playboy’s game. Given to hard drinking and high living, they were famously careless and spendthrift. Fitzgerald squandered his fortune on the French Riviera, and Hemingway burned through the royalties from his Nobel-prize winning books paying for African safaris and fishing trips. By the end of his life, Hemingway had even acquired a large number of cats.
In many ways their fame has given their work a bad name. Their lives suggest that great writers and geniuses are spontaneous, impulsive and erratic—traits nearly the opposite of those sought in business leaders. Competent executives must be able to strategize and prioritize, understand markets and opportunities, adhere to budgets and acknowledge constraints.
First-class leaders are also known for their charisma, their ability to make solid decisions with incomplete information, and for their capacity to think on their feet. But developing a daily writing habit will sharpen your thinking and enhance your public speaking skills. It’ll make you more persuasive and more self-confident. You’ll find it easier to win arguments, motivate others, and drive results.
It’s a simple process: set aside 20 minutes every day for putting your thoughts into words. In time, you will watch yourself soar towards success in business as well as in life.
Here’s how writing each day can boost your leadership ability:
1. Writing builds your vocabulary
Writing helps build your vocabulary, making you more articulate in person as well as on paper.
Every time you write, you’ll be stretching yourself mentally as you reach for the right words. You might turn to Google or an old-fashioned thesaurus, or you might dig through your memories of reading and speaking, but each time you practice, you’ll be increasing the number and complexity of the words you know. You’ll also rev up your recall speed.
Not only will this make you a faster writer, but you’ll also become a smoother talker, and smooth talkers are persuasive leaders. Have an innovative insight you’d like to share? Want to take your elevator pitch to the next level? If you can find the best words, you’ll have taken the biggest step in convincing others that your ideas have value.
2. Writing hones your thinking
How often do you think about thinking? This process, called metacognition, helps you understand how your mind works as you form judgments, make decisions or conduct analyses. As you write, you’re practicing this special type of mental movement between impulse and action, between abstract thought patterns and the concrete form of words.
Every sentence has a logic, and so does every paragraph. When you write, you’re taking what inspires and excites you and crystallizing it into a logical format. As you re-read and revise what you’ve written, asking yourself if it’s clear and makes sense, you’ll be strengthening your logic even further.
Logic is your most powerful weapon in any argument, and your strongest ally in the battle to get your ideas heard.
“Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go.” – E. L. Doctorow
3. Writing boosts creativity
People often assume that highly creative people are born that way, and that their great ideas grow organically within them like apples on a tree. Nothing could be further from the truth. Edison couldn’t have perfected the incandescent light bulb if he hadn’t spent years tinkering in a lab, and Bell wouldn’t have patented the telephone if he hadn’t first experimented extensively with the telegraph.
Great ideas don’t come from nowhere, they’re the fruits of habit, the gems that come at the end of a solid idea-development process. Writing is quite simply the finest idea-development process known to humankind. Revision and review allow the very best of your ideas to shine through.
4. Writing increases your self-confidence and charisma
When you know what you’re talking about, other people can sense it. True self-confidence radiates from within, and it’s infectious. Leaders who believe in their own abilities and knowledge are the ones everyone will want to follow. And nothing develops that knowledge and self-confidence as well as practice. Rehearse your thinking by writing it down, and you’ll naturally become more sure of yourself.
“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” – Benjamin Franklin
5. Writing is a way to practice mindfulness
Today’s leaders are aware of the advantages to cultivating mindfulness on a daily basis—from decreasing stress to increasing listening skills and interpersonal effectiveness. We know that building these skills will help us grow. However, it remains difficult for many of us to fit daily meditation into our busy schedules.
Daily writing offers similar benefits. It allows you to slow down and take stock of your thoughts and feelings, to gain clarity about your impulses. It provides a comprehensive catalog of your state of mind—one that you can draw upon to orient yourself as well as to convince others.
Building a writing habit offers you one other big advantage: in time, you’ll end up with a big pile of words.
Words that you can turn into blog posts or articles, words that you can package and sell as a book. Releasing these words out into the world can transform you into a thought leader, or perhaps even a celebrated (and well-paid) author. Your words might even make you as famous as Dale Carnegie or dare I mention Fitzgerald and Hemingway.
Have you tried expressing yourself in writing? If so, is it simple or challenging for you? Let us know in the comments below!
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