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Thinking Attitudes

Just because we were all born with brains does not mean we are all thinkers per se. Yes, we do think generally, to the extent that our brains function but what I’m talking about goes beyond the normal. It takes a certain kind of attitude in order to be productive in our thinking, which is the best fit for a good writer.

The following attributes, when consciously cultivated, will help your thinking be more productive:

(a) Be skeptical: Well, it’s not a very attractive attribute but I believe it is possible to be skeptical in a healthy way. It allows you to ask tough questions where other people would simply accept whatever is there. Healthy skepticism points you in the direction of further investigation of a new idea, concept or way of thinking. You are able to turn things around, inside-out, sideways and in every other direction in order to understand it better. At the end of the day you will find you have extended your original ideas and come up with new aspects that you can write about.

(b) Be analytical. This comes in handy when you are dealing with data that needs to be organized into specific format and/or summarized. This is an advantage when it comes to writing reports and some forms of technical writing like proposals.

(c) Curiosity – It may have killed the cat but certainly no writer will ever die from curiosity. Approach your subject with a desire to know more about it, other than what is available on the surface. For instance, if you are doing research on a specific topic you can read about it on the internet, books and magazines to get some understanding of it. However, you may come across data that requires confirmation of actual existence, and if you are curious enough, you will go out there to get it. You may choose to interview an expert or practitioner in that field or simply do an observation experiment.

Thinking Writer

I have previously said that writing involves a lot of thinking, and I add, especially when it comes to technical and academic writing that require specific formatting and structure, or writing to publish. From the starting point where you come up with an idea for an article, book, magazine or other publication, you have to think about what you want to write and how to write it. Once you gather all your thoughts on the subject matter and jot them down, you have to decide which ones are relevant for your piece and which ones will be discarded or kept for another time. These ideas may have come spontaneously at the time you decide to write or when you are given an assignment. Sometimes, though, they have been collected over a period of time through observation, listening, reading, asking questions, investigating, interviews, browsing the net, or just simply THINKING.

It is said that writing is a process that involves planning, writing the first draft, revising, proofreading & editing, and publishing or sharing. Although thinking goes on throughout the process, it is most demanding at the planning stage. The bulk of the work of writing lies in planning and writing the first draft.

To help your thinking, always have with you a small notebook or pad where you can jot everything that comes to mind; absolutely everything! Never underestimate the power of seemingly silly ideas that pop up in the most unlikely places, like when going up the lift, waiting for a bus or feeding the baby. The nature of our minds is such that the subconscious is active throughout unlike the conscious side which shuts down when we are asleep. I remember a time when I would write a lot of poems smack in the middle of the night! I would wake up sometime between 2am and 4am and suddenly words would stream into my thoughts prompting me to grab the pen and notebook I usually keep on a stool beside my bed.

Once you feel there are enough thoughts written in your notebook, find some time to go through them in a quiet place where there’s no interruption. You can use a highlighter to mark those you feel can be used in your writing, or simply cancel out with pen the ones you feel should be discarded. Sometimes the ‘silly’ ideas are simply stepping stones that lead us to more viable ones that make sense. As you do these exercise, you will be doing a lot of thinking, weighing this and that idea, asking yourself questions, etc.

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