5 Reasons Why You Should Write Things Down

Reasons Why You Should Write Things Down

Why do I advocate writing things like goalsmission statements, fears, and plans out? Why not just  keep mental track? Why not jot quick notes down on your phone or leave a voice memo?

I’m a big believer in writing things down. Writing things out long hand instead of typing makes you slow down and allows your brain process what’s coming out a bit better than typing—but it’s not an absolute necessity. I’ll give in and say that typing them up is the next best thing to writing them on paper, and far better than nothing at all. The main point is that you turn thoughts into words your eyes can see.

So why do I advocate writing things down? Because memory—no matter how good—is faulty. It embarrasses me say that sometimes a high school classmate or some other friend connects with me via Facebook and my first thought is, “Who are you?”

If It’s Not Written Down, It Didn’t Happen

Very often during my years as a school teacher and minister, people would come up to me in a crowded hallway or foyer and tell me something important. After way too many episodes of forgetfulness I implemented a rule in my communication with other people: If it didn’t get written down it’s the same as not telling me, so the response you need from me won’t happen.

I didn’t put all the responsibility on the other person. If I had pen and paper on hand I would be sure to write a note and stick it in my pocket with my keys, ensuring I would see it again that same day. If I was unable to find something to write with, I would tell the person, “Please find a way to write me a note and bring it back ASAP so I don’t forget.” With the advent of smartphones, I would ask people to send me an email right that moment.

The final result was that if I or the other person wrote it down, you can be sure I’d take care of it. If it was never written down, there was a more than 50% chance that I’d forget what you just told me in the next five minutes.

Here are My Top 5 Reasons Why You Should Write Things Down

  • Concreteness: Writing something down takes an abstract thought and gives it concrete shape and form. Writing down your ideas or dreams also infuses them with a certain measure of sincerity—or at least helps you measure your own sincerity about what’s been in your head and heart.
  • Revisitability:  When you write something down you can go back and look at it again and again. There’s a reason why announcements get posted all over college campuses, and why advertisers spread their names and slogans as widely as they can. They know that repetition builds reinforcement. Repetition builds familiarity.
  • Editability: Written concepts and ideas are more easily edited if necessary. Not only that, but it gives more than a single individual the ability to contribute to the concept, expanding it far beyond the original.
  • Permanence: When something’s written down it can’t, or won’t, be changed on a whim. Written words also become a marker of sorts to help us keep track of milestones in our lives (think journaling).
  • Reliability: Written words don’t suffer from a faulty memory. There’s a reason why we pay a court transcriptionist to write every word spoken in a court room verbatim—we want a reliable account for the questions that will invariably arise: “Who said that?” “What did they say, exactly?

[My apologies to the grammar nazis and linguists for the made-up words in my list above.]

I challenge you to begin writing things down and see if it doesn’t make you more efficient, productive, and cut your stress levels  significantly. Pick three areas of your life where you think you could start writing things down and try it for a month to see what it does for you.

What do you think about the benefits of writing things down? What methods or tricks do you use to make keeping track of what’s going on in your head easier? How do you remember appointments and important information others share with you? Please share them with us in the comments.


I’m Jeff M. Miller, and I help ordinary people who are stuck in a rut change their behaviors so they can be extraordinary. I’m an entrepreneur who retired from my full-time job in my early 40s to work from home. I’m a financial counselor, life coach, graphic designer, and passionate believer in helping others improve their lives a little more each day.

Adventures in Being Ill-Prepared for an Extended Airport Visit


Yesterday, my wife was flying standby on her way home from a trip out of state. About 30 minutes before I needed to head out the door and get to the airport—a 50 minute drive—a string of intense thunderstorms raced through the Dallas area. Even as I drove down the highway toward the airport, I listened to reports on the radio of wind damage, massive power outages, and flooded streets near my destination.

My original worry of not making it to the airport on time due to traffic was washed away as flights in and out of Dallas were either delayed or cancelled altogether. Her flight had been pushed back to who knows when, but it was too late to turn back and still be certain that I would be where I needed to be if and when her flight finally left the ground.

The 50 minute drive ended up totaling a little over 2 hours—including a pit stop for some dinner. Once I got inside the airport, I learned her plane now had a pending departure time a full two hours later than the original scheduled arrival. Originally, I thought I’d barely be making it on time, so I didn’t bring anything to help me pass the time—nothing but a half empty and quickly dying cell phone, that is. [Phone power 53% and falling. Flight estimated arrival: 8:10 pm.]

So what to do when you’re stuck in the airport with nothing to do. How could I make the time productive and interesting?

After over an hour of people watching, surfing Facebook on my phone, and walking the public areas, I remembered that there were likely several pens in the glovebox of my van, so I went out to take a look. Score! I couldn’t find paper, so I breezed by the airport info booth and snagged an employee parking flyer that was on the floor, a trolley transit flyer, and found my wife’s itinerary folded up in my pocket. Score!

Three pieces of paper doesn’t sound like much, but I write fairly small. That’s were these words I’m typing up now originally came to life. The words didn’t come easily at first, so I took some time to people watch and check Facebook on my phone again. [Phone power 44%. Flight estimated arrival: 9:15 pm.]


By the way, the speakers in this airport are really messed up. All the live announcements are garbled and the music all sounds like really bad 8-bit dub step. Magically, the prerecorded TSA announcements are clear and pleasant. Maybe government can do something right after all… [Phone power 39%. Flight estimated arrival: 9:25 pm.]

The funny thing is, I come up with ideas to write about all through the day, but it’s usually when I’m in the middle of something and can’t stop to write. I’ll jot a quick note somewhere and get back to it later. But here, sitting in this airport with nothing to do for hours, I’m a complete blank. So, I’m writing this rambling piece instead. [Phone power 33%. Flight estimated arrival: 10:45 pm.]

Oh! a blog post idea about goal setting! You’ll have to read it some other time…

I took some time to write my thoughts out, texted with my wife, and called to check up on my kids. Battery power is getting critical, so it was time to turn off all non-essentials. [Phone power 22%. Flight estimated arrival: 11:10 pm.]

I spent another fairly successful hour filling up most of the remainder of my three blank pages. In the end, my wife’s flight landed at 10:40 pm, and battery power sitting at 17% as we walked out of the airport.

In the end, I learned my lesson. Never again will I head out the door for any destination where I might end up sitting around without taking my go-bag—my backpack filled with my laptop, iPad, a book or two, and chargers!

What’s in your go-bag and how often do you take it with you when you leave the house? What are your ideas for staying productive in a non-optimal situation? Please share in the comments.

I’m Jeff M. Miller, and I help ordinary people who are stuck in a rut change their behaviors so they can be extraordinary. I’m an entrepreneur who retired from my full-time job in my early 40s to work from home. I’m a financial counselor, life coach, graphic designer, and passionate believer in helping others improve their lives a little more each day.

Writers, Don’t Be Afraid to Take Your Time

I’ve been reading blog posts and news stories here and there speaking about the changing nature of publishing. There are so many changes happening so fast it’s sometimes hard to keep track, and honestly it’s foolish to try. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good thing to stay abreast of what’s going on in the industry—all segments of it—but there’s no need to know it all.

One of the things I’ve seen lately is this push for authors to produce as many books as they can as fast as they can. There was a time not too long ago when, if an author published a novel once a year they were on a rapid schedule. They were producing!

Now there’s talk, because of the “ease” of publishing ebooks, that if you’re not putting out a couple of novels a year, then you’re falling behind.

Photo credit: re_birf (Flickr)

Don’t Forget, Writing is a Process

Revisit the post from Rachelle Gardner about Six Thing to Learn from Hemingway that I mentioned a few weeks ago. Here’s one of the things she gleaned from studying his writing habits.

He wasn’t afraid of the process. He knew that a book or short story had its own timetable, and he didn’t try to force it. If a project needed weeks, months or years in the editing and rewriting phase, that’s what he gave it. Despite the same anxiety for publication that all writers share, he still gave his books the time they needed to develop.

I don’t know much about fines wines, or coffee, or cheeses, but I do know one thing. Some of them need time to age to produce the flavor that makes them desirable. If makers of any of these premium delicacies rush their product through production in order to get it to market, you know as well as I that they would soon have a severe drop in sales because of the corresponding drop in quality.

Writing, I believe, is the same way. Crafting a good story takes time.

Time to let your ideas percolate. Time to flesh out those ideas and turn out an outline and a plot. Time to develop characters and run them through the wringer of life. Time to write the story, then edit it, then revise it, and revise it again, and again.

You get the picture.

I write a lot, and I write as fast as I can. I’ve got novels I could push out into the world, but as a self-published author I think I owe it to those who will read my works to give them the best product I can. If I create something they enjoy and think is of value, they’ll become a fan and be more willing to buy the next work I publish. They’ll be more willing to spread the word.

You know the same won’t be true if I put out a bunch of shoddy work, no matter how great the volume.

I’m Jeff M. Miller, and I help ordinary people who are stuck in a rut change their behaviors so they can be extraordinary. I’m an entrepreneur who retired from my full-time job in my early 40s to work from home. I’m a financial counselor, life coach, graphic designer, and passionate believer in helping others improve their lives a little more each day.

Writers, Just Write

There’s an old adage that says “Quality over quantity.” I suppose this applies to writing as well, or does it?

There’s a related adage that says, “Practice makes perfect.”

Well, no, not really, because if you’re practicing incorrectly you’ll never become perfect. But, if you’re practicing with a mind focus toward improvement, using a work ethic that pushes you to create a better end result, then yes, you’re on the way toward possible perfection.

Sometimes we read about overnight successes and wonder why that hasn’t happened to us. An author submits their first novel and it’s accepted right away, or rockets to the top of the sales lists.

What we fail to recognize is how many years it took them to get the book done in the first place. How many books did they write and never submit? How many story ideas ended up in the trash? How many times did they rewrite every single scene in that “overnight success” book?

Write, Write, Write

I submit to you that authors need to simply buckle down and write.

Finished a novel? Write another one. Submitted a novel? Good for you, now get back to writing.

There seems to be a critical mass a writer needs to develop. It’s not true in every single case, but so often you find out that a writer has been slogging away in obscurity for years before they make their first sale. It’s akin to Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule from his book Outliers. The idea that you need to put in your time to become an expert at something, and then you need to put in even more time to become phenomenal.

Here are some anecdotes that spring to mind.

  • Ray Bradbury once wrote an essay about how he got rejected 500 times before he got his first acceptance.
  • J.R.R. Tolkien created entire languages, cultures, and a world before writing the Lord of the Rings. He produced ream after ream after ream of notes, history, and character development.
  • Isaac Asimov once said that a writer needs about a million words of prose under his belt before he’s ready to be published.
  • I met a young man at a recent writing workshop who’d never written anything before five years ago. Since then, he’s written over 1.4 million words.
  • Robert Silverberg once said that he once wrote about a million words per year.

Now, you can say that most of the examples above are the cream of the crop type author. I would agree. However, the point is these authors produced and kept on producing.

Was everything they wrote worth publishing? Nope. I’m pretty sure each of these authors produced more unpublished works than published. They understood that a writer’s job is to write. Sure, times have changed, and we’re told we need to worry about marketing, and creating a buzz through social networks (an idea that J.A. Konrath might take exception to), but our real job is to write.

The more you write, the better you’ll get. Those millions of words will have a cumulative affect as we work on honing our craft. Every story will be a little better than the ones before. Each chapter more coherent. Each paragraph more pointed. Each sentence tighter.

Have you crafted a million words? What are you waiting for?

I’m Jeff M. Miller, and I help ordinary people who are stuck in a rut change their behaviors so they can be extraordinary. I’m an entrepreneur who retired from my full-time job in my early 40s to work from home. I’m a financial counselor, life coach, graphic designer, and passionate believer in helping others improve their lives a little more each day.