When I write every day, a nice thing happens. Problems appear smaller, and the solutions more clear.
On the way to solve a problem, we have an idea of what we’re going to do. We can also assume there is a better way to do something. We often like to seek advice from people on how best to tackle a situation, and we often come up with some good ideas through that dialogue. Having a dialogue with ourselves is quite possible though as well. Writing is a way to have a conversation with yourself, when no one is around.
An Ever Present Companion
We sometimes forget we have a wealth of experience from past mistakes and successes. So much so we don’t realize what we know until we need it. As if we can ask our past for information to help us in the present. As if we’re accompanied by an adviser. An adviser who knows much, who is ready to help, but will not speak unless spoken to. Once we realize this adviser exists, we need to communicate with them.
Writing begins the dialogue, and though it might take a while to receive an answer. An answer may not come until you have asked in a way that is clear enough. Writing allows you to be clear, by getting through the mental muck. This is the first few minutes of writing about nothing too important. What the plan for the day is, or thoughts on a book you’re reading.
Opening this dialogue takes time, but access to these insights and ideas will be worth it.
What to Communicate About
Once you have a conversation going, what is there to talk about?
Sometimes there is a situation or problem to explore. Begin describing what it is, what you know, what you wished you knew, and who it includes. Sometimes writing will make the solution obvious, or expose something as surprising. It’s great when progress comes quickly, but it usually doesn’t.
Some Investigative Work
When this occurs, begin some investigative work. Look at it from different angles. We can play off James Altucher’s idea to make a list of ideas. Here are some options:
- If you’re liberal minded, how might a conservative approach the problem?
- If you had $500 to experiment, what would you try? What about $5000?
- If a friend came to you with this problem, what would you say? What about a stranger on the street?
- If you had to make a decision within the next 60 seconds, what would you do?
- Think of how different people (or professions) would approach a problem.
- How would a different environment affect the situation?
- How does the availability of different resources influence the approach?
- How would someone have solved this problem 10 years ago? 50 years ago? 100 years ago?
- How would someone who is blind approach this situation?
- How would someone who woke up from a coma after 20 years look at the problem?
- How would someone of a different gender/sex look at it?
- Are there any hidden constraints that are not needed?
- Is there a middle approach if someone else is affected?
- Suppose you’re wrong about everything you think you know about this situation?
- How could this situation birth a nonprofit to help other people?
- How might this situation turn into a business?
- Would the knowledge contained in a book already written give you a solution? What about the introductory chapter of a free kindle preview?
- Are you too focused on what progress should look like that you can’t see what progress could look like?
Coming up with ideas, then turning them into progress is an important skill. This skill compounds through the dialogue and discourse with your ever present companion. Though only through clear thinking, and the clearest thoughts come through writing.