On writing

and thinking clearly

What’s this all about?

I thought it would be prudent to illuminate why I have started this newsletter - it doesn't exist to merely provide the reader with stories of my past, although they will crop up - I've started this newsletter for its own sake.

Previously, I've found writing my thoughts gives me great relief from my convoluted mind. It enables a release and a clear-out, but more importantly, it helps me to see things for what they are. Writing necessitates that I get to grips with whatever argument I'm having with my punchbag brain. It highlights the errors in my thinking and judgment. It shows me where there's room for improvement in my opinions, to which I am never married. Arguably, writing things down has a greater effect of changing my views on a subject than does debating them with a friend.

However, my journal keeping leaves room for improvement. Over the years, I have made plentiful lists, wrote plans, and kept notes; when I was around age 11, I vividly recall sincerely jotting a 5-year plan but when it comes to daily long-form journaling, I’ve yet to stick with it. Furthermore, when I look back on what I've written, I'm often embarrassed or uncomfortable, like a novice songwriter reading over their lyrics.

Bullet Journal

So I try to make it easy for myself. The journaling method that I try to incorporate into my life is the Bullet Journal. I affectionately refer to my Bullet Journal as the BuJo, pronounced Boo Joe.

The Bullet Journal system is simple and neat. The idea is that it seamlessly integrates into your daily life and is less overwhelming than keeping a traditional long-form journal. It tries to encourage the user to keep regular, succinct notes and it aims to promote the expansion of ideas.

I do use my Bullet Journal regularly, but I'm afraid to say I haven't kept my previous editions. There are probably multiple reasons for this; I'm an innate minimalist and can't stand clutter, I'm never sentimental about material things (people who know me are aware I discard my medals immediately after a race), but also more significantly I have an odd relationship with what is past. That's probably a peculiar thing to say. But I'm still working on how I relate to my past.

One way I’ve done the work on my past, via the medium of writing, is through a process of Self Authoring.

Self Authoring

Self Authoring is that. You write an autobiographical account of your life, but then you go two steps further. You write about your present faults and virtues, and lastly, you write about the future that you want to live. Not only is writing about your past cathartic and enlightening; writing about your present situation is comforting, and the future you desire exciting.

The beauty of the Self Authoring platform is that it provides a simple template to write each period of your life. Your past is divided into epochs, which are then further divided into major events. Naturally, these are determined by you. The whole process promotes an extremely deep introspection which, I benefitted greatly from.

Three years ago, I spent three days engaging with my past, Self Authoring (or autobiography, but I'm aware that has pretentious connotations which I wish to avoid so as not to put you off!) I wrote thousands of words, each one providing me with a clearer understanding of the major events which had shaped me. So much of our lives are determined by the actions and decisions of others, especially when we are young - it's valuable to examine these events as we age.

The present authoring section allows us to contemplate our virtues and vices. None of us are perfect. We all err and make mistakes. I do so daily!!! I've also failed at things countless times (my driving test - three times). I've never been particularly bothered by this. Don't get me wrong, I don't like mucking things up as much as the next person, but I suppose I've always seen it as a natural part of life and exploration. Because I think this way, I presumptuously think everyone else does too. They do not! 😂

I've found that many people happen to be quite horrified by failure. TERRIFIED of losing a job, failing an exam, not getting the position or time they want in a race. Worst of all, people who give themselves a hard time, tend to give those around them a hard time too. If you are the kind of person that chastises yourself for getting something wrong (i.e being human) you'll probably judge others accordingly. This isn't good for anyone.

Do us all a favor. Write (reflect) more.

Letters to a future self

Another way to muse about the future that you want, other than engaging with the Self Authoring Suite, is to write your future self a letter.

Future Me is a platform that enables you to write an email to yourself and set a date by which it will be delivered. If I could do this with the physical mail, trust me, I would. If you know whether this is possible, please let me know (comment below)!

I wrote my first Future Me email last year, June 18, 2020, and it was delivered to my inbox exactly 12 months later. I kept my letter fairly lighthearted as it was my initial foray, and I psychoanalyze myself enough by other mediums!

It was so exciting to receive this letter, which had been floating around in the ether for a whole year, eagerly awaiting its cue to fly into my Gmail inbox, I am sure.

These emails can be set for any date. So you might write one to yourself for specific events in your life, or you might write one and set it to be delivered at a random time, maybe as a little act of kindness to yourself.

If you are brave enough, you can even set your correspondence to be publicly readable. If that's not your style, and you'd prefer a more intimate format of writing to yourself, like the BuJo, then you might also consider handwriting a letter to yourself and keeping it somewhere safe to be read at a later date.

Writing letters by hand

A real art form. Hand-writing letters. Shamefully, I think the last time I penned a letter was when I was dating Anna. At Anna's romantic request, we engaged in paper correspondence numerous times in the early years of our relationship. I remember writing to her while I was on the plane to Hawaii on Summer break from the Navy, and I gleefully posted the letter when I arrived in Honolulu. I also cherished receiving handwritten mail from Anna while I was living on the Naval base during my training. It truly is a more personal experience than receiving a text!

There's evidence that writing by hand improves word recall, long-term memory and can even help people overcome bouts of depression.

There are of course numerous other ways to hone your intellect through writing. If you are willing to be challenged, publicly, you might write an opinion piece for a magazine or newspaper, or you could simply publish an article on Medium.

Letter

Going one step further, there is Letter. I will admit, this one is new to me, but it looks extremely enticing. Letter provides a platform for you to publish an essay on a topic of your choosing, or to just communicate with someone else for all to see, but in a much more considered and sophisticated manner than by doing so on the comments section of Instagram!

For a wonderful example of a pen pal relationship being forged through Letter click the link.

To conclude

We know that many of history's luminaries kept journals, from Marcus Aurelius to Abraham Lincoln. I won't bother hashing over that old ground here. But I think it is safe to say that writing will never be detrimental and will most likely benefit your life in profound ways.

I'm currently reading Where Men Win Glory by Jon Krakauer, which is a biography of the late Pat Tillman, an American Football player turned soldier. It's a riveting read, made more so as it's filled with Pat's journal entries. Perhaps even if we aren't to journal for our own benefit, we should journal for those who we leave behind?

We all have a story to tell. Cliché but true. We are all caught up in the tangled web of life. Affected by, and in turn, affecting the lives of others we not only know but those we do not. We should listen to each other and learn. We should listen to ourselves too. Figure out what we really think and believe.

I implore everyone to start writing more. If we spend even just a tenth of our time on social media, instead writing, I contend that the world will improve.

Think of consuming social media as eating sugar, and reading and writing long-form pieces as getting your five-a-day 😀. More on this to come in future newsletters, including; my opinions on the news (and how it turns your neocortex into a slush-puppy), social media (much the same as the news), running and fitness, challenging oneself and testing your mettle, my time in the Navy, on trying new things and leaving your comfort zone, on not specializing in a world of specialties, on the books I read, on my influences.