When people are all persuading you to write publicly – start a blog or a newsletter or write Twitter threads – you should consider writing privately first.
Writing privately means writing for yourself. You may decide to publish it, but that’s a decision for another time.
Why would you write privately?
Writing makes you a better thinker. By putting ideas into words, you challenge what you think you know. Day by day, you will understand the world more deeply. You’ll realize what you don’t know. You’ll be more curious.
But if you start writing for the public, external rewards can shift your priority. Instead of taking time to think better, you bother yourself with numbers that don’t matter.
Writing privately is easy to start. All you need is a keyboard and text editor, or a pen and piece of paper. Stop looking for fancy software – you don’t need them, at least for now.
You can write about what you notice, what you know, and what you don’t know.
You’ll be surprised how many ideas are in your mind. If you start a new page (or a file, or a note) for each idea, you’ll feel like collecting coins in a Super Mario game. It’s fun and rewarding.
But easy to start doesn’t mean easy to sustain.
Once you’ve collected the easy and visible ones, you need to look for the subtle and buried ones.
Reread what you’ve written. Did the sentence say what you meant to say? Do you see gaps in your thinking? Think again. Rewrite them.
The more you write, the more curious you will be. Hold on to the curiosity. Find answers in books. And come back to write. Repeat the process. This is how you learn.
Sometimes it seems you have put in a lot of work but making little progress. It’s normal.
You could distract yourself and summarize what others have said. You could write more shallow ideas to feel better. But doing so won’t do much good to you.
Writing privately gives you time and space to confront your anxiety, humiliation, uncertainty, and complexity. Remember, you’re not doing this to make yourself feel good. You’re doing this to make yourself a better thinker.
Be patient. Notice what thoughts excite you – not those that sound smart, but those that interest you intrinsically. Curiosity will always be your drive.
When it becomes tedious, think of it like musicians practicing scales – you’re doing the work behind the stage.
When it feels stagnant, think of your progress like the seasons – it may look pale in the winter, but spring will come.
Show up every day. Enjoy the process. You’ll discover what you write will become something much bigger, more magnificent than you could ever imagine.