Writing – the best thinking tool

A hard night’s trick-or-treating with some very overexcited children – I mean, witches and zombies – last night, and then straight back home, throw them into bed, and sit down to interview the wonderful Robbie Kellman Baxter, author of The Membership Economy. The podcast episode will be broadcast on 21 November, but one thing that Robbie said struck me so forcibly that I’ve been thinking about it all day today. 

Robbie wrote a great blog after she’d finished the book on what she’d learned: http://baxterblog.typepad.com/blog/2015/07/how-to-write-a-book-you-can-do-it-heres-how.html (I love it when authors do this. It means the interview questions pretty much write themselves). The phrase that partiuclarly stood out for me was this one:

The process of writing actually helps you think. It’s amazing what I learn just by asking my own question and then trying to answer in a 15-minute free write. Writing has become my newest and best problem-solving tool.’ 

YES!! I thought – THAT’S EXACTLY RIGHT!!! So I asked her some more about it

Robbie: Yes, it’s almost magical… This was actually a tip from one of my writing coaches was: write a question that’s vexing you and see what your mind tells you about it, so I would write something like ‘I don’t know the distinction between membership and subscription and people keep asking me’, and then I would write ‘And I think it’s because…’ and then I would sit for a moment, and then I would just free write, and at the end of it I’d have an answer.. so I still do that now when I have a problem and I don’t know the answer. I’ll open a clean document (because I type, I don’t hand write), and I’ll say ‘I want to be able to answer this question but I don’t know how, and the reason I don’t know how is because..’, and then I just go from there, and usually I come up with a much better way of framing the problem and sometimes an actual answer.

This is pretty much how it works for me, but I’d never thought to put that structure around it. I will now.