The Danger of Putting Pen to Paper

I talk too much.

As a kid, I never shut up. As an adult, I use the rare moments of silence to relive the stupid things that have tumbled out of my mouth at work, at parties, in line for coffee…it’s a long list.

I have a lot of admiration for friends and colleagues that think of the perfect thing they should have said hours later. I long for that kind of regret. Words have power. In human speech though, power is often diminished, rather than amplified, by volume. A thoughtful, concise point carries more poignancy than a big dump of words. Written down, this point can hit a target in such a way as to trigger action.

Here’s where things get dangerous.

Writing things down changes a thought into a plan and leaves an inky line of accountability. A starting line. A place that demarcates the before and the after. When you write it down, you bring an idea into being. You birth it right there on the paper and give it life. At this point, you have to decide to keep it alive or let it die.

For this reason, regardless of what apps or files you usually use to jot things down in your phone or computer, when it comes to the most important things in life, you need a practice of putting pen to paper. When setting a goal in life or creating an intention, there is no better first step than ink on page. Here are a few tips for making that happen:

Use a great pen. This seems petty, but the weight and scratch of a quality pen in your hand will help to move itself across a page. It makes you want to pick it up and use it to write your own fate. It also separates what you are about to put down from all the other grocery lists and return address scrawlings of day-to-day life. Good pens can cost as little as $20 and can transform the role of writing into chronicling.

Create a space for short-term vs. long-term ideas. Writing things down turns a dream into a goal. Some of these will be small things, but others will be solid one-liners that help direct your future. A journal or planner might be a place you jot down your daily thoughts and plans, but the front page or back page can be reserved for personal statements or words to live by.

Review your own writing. Hearing yourself talk about a dream, you might think yourself crazy, impractical or struggle to take yourself seriously. Reading what you’ve written down seems plausible and exciting. If your dream is particularly outlandish, it makes you sound brave, which makes you feel brave. Come back to what you’ve written regularly. Cross it of when you accomplish it, add new ideas as they come. This makes you the author of your own dream.

Writing things down changes them from a thought to a deed. The action of picking up a pen and putting it to paper is a verb for your subject. It will survive as living evidence, on display, intractable, known.

Try it and see.