When writing takes too long

When writing takes too long

Many leaders I work with enjoy the instant gratification of dictating into speech-to-text apps, making short handheld videos, or giving verbal “brain dumps” to assistants. When these same leaders work with me on writing and voice development, they discover aspects of their cognition they didn’t realize they weren’t accessing.

I’ve written previously about why I believe business leaders need to invest in developing their voices in written form. Here, I want to explore the cognitive differences between dictating and writing.

Leadership level: unlocked

The proposition to take the time to sit and formulate thoughts in writing can feel wasteful, fruitless – even irresponsible. But, shifting focus from immediate gratification to longer-term and wider-spread impact unlocks great power. That’s when real transformation begins.

Writing doesn’t provide the intoxicating “hit” of immediate feedback. Here’s what it DOES do:

  1. Creates intention by slowing you down, both physically and mentally, opening space for deeper thought and intentional shaping of ideas.
  2. Collects and organizes thoughts and channels them into a single stream of output that is more easily consumed by others.
  3. Creates permanence, allowing ideas and messages to be revisited and refined. Numerous scientific studies have shown that we are more likely to remember something that we write down, making it more permanent in our own brains. (By the way, writing by hand gives you more of this benefit).
  4. Creates clarity by crystallizing previously random, ad hoc, jumbled, or even competing ideas – leading to greatly increased confidence and believability.
  5. Literally manifests thoughts, messages, and goals. Writing is a physical act that encodes ideas in symbols (language) and body through our physical engagement with writing media.
  6. Increases efficiency – while a greater up-front investment of time is required, writing can reach more people faster, with greater consistency, and often with fewer words than speech. Essential Voice clients also dramatically shorten their writing process over the course of the program (i.e. practice makes better).

One of my leader-clients summed it up nicely:

“Learning to write succinctly and clearly to my desired audience resolves my confusion. It creates a better connection and clearer pathway to the desired outcome.”

Science says…

Writing and speaking are “supported by separate parts of the brain”, right down to how words are constructed. In fact, the part of the brain responsible for speech can be damaged while the writing part of the brain continues to function – and vice-versa, too. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that speech and writing have different effects in the world.

The act of writing also increases the likelihood of remembering things and achieving goals: your brain gives more attention to what you’re writing down – “the physical act of writing brings the information to the forefront and triggers your brain to pay close attention.”

While I love neuroscience and its ongoing discoveries, I don’t need science to know that writing enhances one’s voice, and one’s leadership. I need only observe the leaders I coach to write. As one of them recently told me:

“One exceptional message crafted over several days has a greater outcome than many hastily written messages.”

If you’re a great extemporaneous speaker, salesperson, or spokesperson who never gets it down on paper, I encourage you to commit to letting me guide you through a process to do just that.