Find Treasure by Writing One Word

The Power of Myth We are all fascinated with myth. I believe that we all experience a deep dissatisfaction with reality, with what is visible with our eyes. Myth tells us that there is something beyond the world that we see only with our eyes. According to John Eldredge in his book, “Waking the Dead”,…

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The Power of Myth

We are all fascinated with myth. I believe that we all experience a deep dissatisfaction with reality, with what is visible with our eyes. Myth tells us that there is something beyond the world that we see only with our eyes. According to John Eldredge in his book, “Waking the Dead”, myth makes us come alive.

One of the greatest storytellers of Western culture in the past half-century has been JRR Tolkien. In his book The Hobbit, he spoke to our souls when he built a myth around a legend of a hidden treasure guarded by a fierce dragon – treasures in the dark. This treasure is the sole desire of its rightful heir, Thorin Oakenshield, and his kin. And his pursuit causes a ripple effect with significant social, economical, and political ramifications. In other words, it changes the world.

Treasures in the Dark

If our desire is for myth, we are particularly engaged with the idea of hidden treasure, of treasure maps, of quests to find the pearl of great price. But what if I were to tell you that although this may be myth, it is still very real? What if I were to tell you that there are treasures stored up in the dark, that you have access to? They’re not buried under a mountain, and they’re not guarded by a dragon (in most cases). But they are hidden, and they are guarded, and it will take work to find them, draw them out, and share them with others.

Those treasures are found in you.

Writing is Mining

Much has already been said, and written, about the practice of writing. But probably the most common theme that comes up when discussing writing is “writer’s block”. This can raise questions like these ones we tend to tell ourselves: What will I write about? Who will it be for? Will it be any good?

But if you want to find treasures in the dark, then the point is not to focus on those questions – the point is to focus on the act itself.

Mind Mapping is Good Housekeeping

How will you access this treasure within you? Our minds can be overwhelmed by thoughts, by aspirations, by hurt and trauma – delusions even. They become so full that we can’t even seem to see a glimmer of the treasure that’s in there.

So the first step is to do some housekeeping – to clear out the closet. The practice of journaling has been lauded for generations. I’m always struck to read how much of history comes from the act of people just keeping journals. What would we know about much of history, even modern history, if journals were not kept?

But in today’s world we tend to think, who has time to write in a journal? What happened today that was so important that I had to write it down? The point is not to write prose everyday, but rather to keep a shorthand account of what – went – down. Otherwise it risks a very credible risk of being lost.

Today we do this by jotting down notes on paper or by posting text and photos in an app like Evernote or Day One. My personal favorite is creating mind maps on paper or using an app like Scapple.

Why mind mapping? Because I’ve found it brings the quickest relief for the conscious mind. I just write everything that’s on my mind in brief phrases of usually about two words, anywhere on the page (or in the app, when I use Scapple). Only after my thoughts are out of my head do I bother to draw connections between them. I find that even the briefest of mind-mapping sessions gives me instant peace. It provides me with the next step of what I have to do (however small that step may be).

When Malcolm Gladwell Comes Knocking

Maybe you’ve heard of Malcolm Gladwell. He is considered one of today’s leading non-fiction writers, and is a favorite over at TED. He is my favorite author as well. Each of his books and articles deal with a particular aspect of social phenomena: Why are successful people successful? When and how does the underdog win? What causes some ideas to stick and others not to?

But what is most fascinating about his writing is that he bases his theories on human stories. He finds the people on which these big and lofty ideas hinge. And oftentimes these aren’t household names or celebrities. They’re just passionate, hardworking people. People who are extraordinary in they’re own way – just like you, just like me.

Gladwell’s pursuit of human stories comes from his belief that every single person has a story to tell. And he takes pleasure in getting to tell those stories.

Isn’t it time the world heard your story? You can’t tell it without writing. And to write, you need to be convinced of the value of writing. And to do that, you need to be convinced of the value of yourself. Just because Malcolm Gladwell hasn’t come knocking, that doesn’t mean you don’t have a story to tell.

Here’s what you can do:

  • Arm yourself. Some people think of a notebook as an investment, as for me, I spend the equivalent of $0.50 on my notebooks. I can’t remember the last time I paid for a pen. As far as software goes, I’m a bit of a spender. I’m a proud paying customer of Evernote, and I also use a tag-team combo of Scrivener (which I’m using now) and Scapple. My point is that writing tools may cost you something, but it’s bargain-basement low compared to the value that writing brings. We’re talking $0.50 for a pile of treasure.
  • Keep it handy. Wherever you are in the day, have that writing tool handy. If it’s a desktop app for your computer, keep it open and handy. If you’re on the go, use the mobile app companions (like the Evernote or Day One apps). Or if nothing beats pen and paper for you, keep that notebook in your bag and that pen in your pocket.
  • Jot it down – quick. Thoughts come and go throughout the day. Each one is a world of possibilities. I’ve found that writing just one word in a mind map has helped me make measured progress on my long-term goals. Remember, I’m talking shorthand, not prose. Write – don’t edit.
  • Set aside a writing time each day. This is the killer habit that separates the men from the boys (women included). I suggest taking 25 minutes to write right before your work day kicks in. Jeff Goins encourages people to write 500 words a day – you can do it in that time.

If you’re alive and breathing – you win. You are already the greatest author in history. That treasure is there, piled up inside you – and there may just be a dragon snoring on top of it. It’s time to slay that dragon – with the pen, not with the sword.

I challenge you right now to write down one word on a piece of paper, and draw a circle around it. That’s a mind map. One word, one new world.

image courtesy of Ian Burt