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🎙 Learning Curve Podcast

EP 16

Writing for clarity & focus ✍️🤔

July 17, 202041m 24s

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Show Notes

In this episode, Brittik and Aravind talk about their writing practices, like Morning pages and journaling, how they take notes, what they do with Twitter and also how Brittik writes songs. This is fully packed with tips to get started.


Aravind Balla

Brittik Basu

Learning Curve Podcast


🤗 This is transcribed using an AI tool. So don't expected it to be perfect. If you find mistakes, please help us polishing this by making a PR.

Welcome to the learning curve Podcast, where brittik and Aravind share with you everything that they've learned so far about technology startups and remote life.

Hello and welcome to the 16th episode of learning of podcast. In this episode, we are going to talk about writing for clarity and focus. I am

the title sounds so good, right? Yeah.

I mean, I really loved the title when I heard it. It's like, wow, it's written so well. And you know, I love it. And. Yeah, the title is very clear, like writing for clarity and focus. So we all want that. And in this episode, we are going to discuss how to achieve it, how to write more and how to start your day with writing.

So I've been, how did you start your day to day?

I didn't write yet. I know that is the answer you were expecting, but as soon as I work, we started recording, recording this podcast. But after this, I'm going to go back to my note taking app and write for a few minutes, or sometimes it spans to like half an hour or an hour.

But, but yeah, so I'm going to write after this.

Hmm. So what, what does your, uh, writing. Comprise of what do you write down? Uh, is there a process to it? What I, what are the different areas in your life that you write about in the morning? So

what I do these days is mostly journaling. Uh, each morning I, after I fresh up, I sit at my computer and write for a few minutes to take things out of my head morning pages, basically.

So I don't really know about the areas or, uh, I don't write specifically for that areas, but, uh, I try to dump everything down on, on the note taking app to like clear my head off of all the thoughts so that I have a better picture for the day. So this concept we picked up from Tim Ferris, and this is called morning pages.

I try to dump everything down on, on the note taking app to like clear my head off of all the thoughts so that I have a better picture for the day.

Uh, I would say your process is a bit more custom it's like morning pages, but like an empty plate, a blank page for you can write anything, right?

Yeah. I have those questions too, but I start off with empty pages and mostly the questions are answered in those, uh, Uh, in those, uh, blank pages. And then I tend to copy paste the answers to the questions.

So you just write free form and then you come back and you put it in the appropriate places. Cool. So, uh,

what are those questions?

Yes. What are these questions that you can like think of them as prompts. Most writers have some, some kind of prompts, which. make them open up their minds and it's a good writing exercise.

I remember I used to go to a writing meetup in Hyderabad and they would give us some words and you have to use these words in your poem or essay or story, and they would kind of give you an idea, like the start, how the start should be, how the end should be. And then you fill in the gaps. So morning pages is somewhat similar where you have these questions, like, what am I grateful for? So these days, you know, if you think of yourself 10 years ago, and you might have thought like, Oh, I wish I had that thing or this thing. And today, most probably you have it and you still don't consider it. As important. So this exercise of thinking, what am I grateful for? It allows us to notice what we have and appreciate it. So you can write three things right about, you know, three things you're grateful for. And then you can ask a question what make today. Great. So this question for me, it's an alternative for a todo list. Todo list is really boring and it's not for people who work based on their motivation based on the energy. So this question actually helps you answer that, that what would one thing be if I do that and I would have an amazing day, so you could write that you could write another thing or three things, but it's a really good question to ask, to get. In the right zone and to understand what is it that you really want rather than reacting to other things.

What am I grateful for?

This is the most important question that I have too. I mean, I feel that everyone should define something which makes their day successful. Uh, like, I mean, if you do that, you will be happy for the day or you will be done for the day. I think setting that in start of the day is very important because like, even if you want to retrospect how the week went, you could like read your journals or read your morning pages back and see what have you achieved. And I also have the same questions. I, I took your template and I'm using that. So I have these three questions. What am I grateful for? What will make my day successful and how am I feeling

cool. So let's, let's do a morning pages now. What do you say?

Yeah. Let's do it.

Yeah. So let, let's start with, what am I grateful for? Uh, I'm I'm grateful for having written a song this morning and I would love to brag about it. So that's one thing, uh, I've been thought about you. What's your first thing? What are you grateful?

Well, I am grateful for a green tea that I'm drinking.

Nice. Well, what kind of green is it?

And. Uh, it's, uh, I, I bought this tea leaves from a tea factory when I visited, uh, I don't remember the place, but it's somewhere in


so it's just that leaves and hot water. Yeah. I'm also grateful for being on that trip. So I've got two things done. Yeah.

I'm grateful for doing this podcast with you Aravind. Thank you. Yeah.

I'm grateful for recording the episode after a long planning.

Yes. It's been a while since, you know, uh, many cancel sessions and we are here. It's still recording. It's still on it. And yesterday actually we had this better plan about how to progress and where to take the podcast forward. So yeah. Really excited for that. Me


Yeah. Yeah. I have one more thing to fill. Okay. What am I grateful for? I'm grateful for being persistent. I have a messy routine and now I'm trying to be more persistent and. Work on it. So yeah, I think today's a gratefulness it's ha has been a bit selfish, uh, because most things have been, no, I think I will cut it. I should not be so, um, yeah. ruthless to myself. No, but maybe I won't so that you know that sometimes you can be ruthless and we judge ourselves, but yeah. So be it. Yeah. I'm, I'm grateful for being persistent and awesome.

Nice. You should do that

often. Yeah. But mostly it's, you know, about the meal that I had, like my mother cooked a really delicious meal, so I'm grateful for that and things like that. But today, somehow I feel it more into me and I'm more inwards then, uh, you know, observing because the day has just started. So yeah. So what would make today Great Aravind? Uh, for me,

it is, uh, getting the recording done, so it's already great.

Okay. So the day's already great. Awesome. Uh, for me it is what would make today amazing.

Feel free to brag.

Yeah, sure. Uh, I'm interested in what foods. So, uh, if I cut my losses in the stock market yesterday, the market went down. So if that happens, It would be a great day, but then again, it's not in my control. So I think, Hmm. I don't want to make that my, you know, marker for today where, uh, it would be a great day.

I think that's a good point in itself. I think we should concentrate on things that are in our control.

Yeah. So I, yeah, I don't, I care about it, but it's not what would make today. Amazing. I think if I. Drink enough coffee and stay up until like six or 7:00 PM today and not sleep during the day. Uh, I think that would be a great day for me so that, you know, then I wake up early by 3:00 AM tomorrow again. So yeah, I can do this routine that would make my day great to stay up all day.

Nice. So, but I think you read something called evening pages as well,

right? Yeah. Evening pages are basically how we wind down. What questions do we ask? How we self reflect and end our day and yeah, that's evening pages

Are there any prompts even there?

Though there are two prompts that, that you have for evening pages, one is what are the amazing things that happened today? So let's go back to morning pages for a second, that you asking what would make today amazing. And. Evening pages kind of makes you accountable. Like what are the amazing things that happened today? There are some things that happen, which we did not plan for. We just happen and it's a good place to record those things. And the next question for evening pages is how could I have made today better? So. A good day goes a certain way and we are humans and we are susceptible to making mistakes. So what mistake did we make? What did we learn from today and how could we have avoided that or done something else entirely to make our day even better? So that's where you can write those things down. Aravind, do you have a wind down routine or

that's what exactly I was thinking of? I think I should. Uh, I don't have a routine yet, but I know that I have to stop work at some time. And I think it's better if I include evening pages in my routine so that I have a good end for the day as well. Right. I think that's what evening pages is for.

Yeah. So I started a thing yesterday, uh, which is having Apple cider vinegar with honey and tea at night. So that kind of concludes my day off and it also is supposed to help me fall asleep. I did not fall asleep yesterday and I found the drink delicious, but, uh, having some, a lot of things that you do every day at a certain time to tell your body like, okay, you know, this is it. This is the end of the day. Uh, be it writing evening pages or having tea or going for a walk and then falling asleep, whatever works for you. It's good to do. I think even if you don't fall asleep at that moment sometimes, well, someday you will, and your body will know, at least he said, okay, doing this means going to bed. Yeah. So, I mean, it's, it's a huge topic. Like I really want to fix my routine. It's been a long time. I remember in school, if he used to wake up early morning at 5:30 AM and go jogging and it was a boarding school. So the day would start early and it would end by nine, 9:30 PM. We would have milk and biscuits and we would go to sleep. So. It was really good routine. Now I don't have that and I'm striving towards it. And morning pages and evening pages along with other rituals are something that I am using to get there.

Other than the morning pages. I tend to take a lot of notes, whatever I am reading online, or whether I am reading a book. Uh, listening to a podcast or anything. I tend to like take a lot of notes these days. I'm not a fan of copy pasting things from the book directly or from an article. But I take a, I try to summarize the article in my own words so that when I get back to it, I get the context of the article perfectly. This is the, this is a way that makes me write a lot as well. And in this process, I form a little pieces of notes that I can tweet it out or like, uh, write. Uh, notes in my notes website, or finally, like when I have a lot of notes and thoughts about one topic that becomes a blog post as well. Uh, when I looked back, I have a very huge collection on what is second brain. So that is coming to be a blog post on my website. What about you? How do you, I mean, do you, uh, take notes as well?

I do write about things and it it's more like fleeting thoughts. It might not be helpful tomorrow, but it's good to know things down, whatever is in my mind. And, uh, I also write a lot of songs. I just wrote a song this morning and, uh, my songs are mostly about how I'm feeling and what's going on in my life. And I just write it down and that's a way to get it out. And an interesting thing about how I write my songs is that I use Post It notes and whenever something is. Right. Or like it's written, well, I keep that note and you can write only so much in a row note. Right? So it's just small parts of a song that are there. And when I see that, Oh, this part is not so good, I've written something better. I crossed that note and I just throw it because it's not needed. So that lets me have only the good parts of a song. And it's not like a book where, you know, I have a lot of scratch lines or something. I. I stick the posted notes on a table or on a wall. And I organize it because a song has different parts, so I can easily shift things around and create the structure using PostIts. So that's one way I write for better songs. So it helps my mind get rid of clutter and unnecessary words that don't fit in. Uh, it, it helps a lot. Also I have the same policy of retweeting, uh, tweets with my own thoughts, with my own version in my own words. And, uh, this is actually something I've been doing, like, you know, writing in my own words I've been doing since childhood and, uh, w in India, especially teachers give notes and they expect you to write exactly.

I have the same policy of retweeting tweets with my own thoughts, with my own version in my own words.

How they are written. So you have to just mug up and, uh, write down. So that's what most kids did, but I never did that. I always had to shift things around and write it in a way that. In a way, how I speak and how I think. So all my answers would be in my own words, but still I would cover all the points I would get full marks. So really proud of that. And I'm still kind of keeping that thing and my tweets, it's all in my own words. And when I read something from someone which I find, Oh, this is an amazing thought, I feel to retweet. In my own words, or sometimes it's not even about that tweet. It's, it's a thought that that tweet triggered in my mind. And now it's a new idea because of something I read. So I find Twitter really useful in that way, where every thought sparks another thought in my mind or. I learned something new. So that's a way in which I write sometimes when I haven't original idea something that no idea is original, by the way, it's all a remix, a synthesis of everything that's going on around us.

No idea is original, by the way, it's all a remix, a synthesis of everything that's going on around us.

So whenever I write a thought, I use use my note taking app, which is Bear and I, I start writing it. And then once I know, like, okay, This is how I want to approach this idea. I opened Twitter and I started thread and threads. I like posted notes for me. You can have only so many words in a trade and you can organize it in any way you like, because you're not posting it all together. It's still there, you know, different versions and yeah, uh, slowly as I form a narrator, uh, Idea and it flows. That's when I tweeted. So Twitter really helps with the limitation part, uh, which I really like. So yeah, that, that's how I write and that's how I like writing helps me think better writing helps me empty my mind. And yeah, it helps me create more content.

I don't know if you have discovered this, but there is a lot of similarity in what do you do with your songs and Twitter. You know, you never sing the song the same way you have your own version of it. And that's what you do on Twitter. You'd never retweet, but add a comment and retweet and how you write your songs in post it notes. You do that same thing with your Twitter threads.

Yeah. I really find limitation useful. And because if we have like, I mean, it, it helps when you have a blank page, but it's usually difficult to start with a blank page. Uh, even with our morning pages, we have these prompts that kind of guide us. And even if I don't write long essay or fill an entire page, I can still write two or three lines at least, or, you know, at least one point of every question. So, yeah, that really helps.

I like how writing. Uh, is the groundwork or the backbone for all the content that we produce. For me, writing helps me like to eat a lot, make notes, a lot writing blogs posts out and as, uh, as well as the episodes that we are recording. These are also spawned from writing. So I think writing is a good practice that everyone can and should be doing to like post your or. generate content. And it also helps you to free your mind and allow your mind to think more because when you take things out of your mind, it is free and it can be filled with something else as well. Or else you'd have the same thoughts. Uh, Just in your mind and not only, I mean, you are like keeping it for yourself. You're not letting it out to the world for other people to benefit from.

It doesn't have to be a thing, you know, like it doesn't have to be a tweet or a blog post, and that really hasn't

That'll happened as the byproduct of writing. Yeah. But the main important point is that you find a lot of clarity. Within your thoughts, because when you take them out of your mind, you can see thoughts as thoughts, not just things that are in a head and you can organize your thoughts. Well, you can structure them well, so that it becomes helpful for not only yourself, but others as well. I remember Brittik you were telling and you have any write down a thought, you have the ability to edit it as well, right? Like if you were thinking something wrong, You, you can actually go back and think or go back and analyze that particular thought was in a wrong direction. And you find a new way or new direction now, which you cannot do, which is not that possible when you keep them to your own and habit in your head.

Hmm. So basically when we think something, we go and update our thought. At some point and we keep updating it based on, you know, new things, new inputs that we learn about, but our brains are not really good at remembering everything. So. You might forget, which was the latest version of the thought. And you might think of a previous version, which doesn't, you know, might not be accurate and that is our brain and it's okay. But if we write that down, we can edit our thoughts and we can find how it evolved and where we are now, um, in the thought. Aravind, in today's day. Like it's so difficult to focus. There is so much happening inside of our smartphones that it's difficult to, you know, spend time with ourselves and write. How, how do you find it challenging and how do you overcome the challenge and how do you find time to write without getting distracted?

I mean, it is challenging. What I do is I don't. Pick up my phone until I finished my morning writing practice. So it's very easy to get distracted when our phone is around and a simple notification can like switch our context completely. So what I do is I, I try to, we'll finish writing and then go check all the social media stuff. I'm not perfect because this is what I want to do every day, but I'm not. Consistently doing this every day, because some days I opened my phone on the bed and start checking social media and, uh, do I mean get distracted. But when I come back to writing, I make sure my phone is on silent. My phone is on silent, always, uh, always in the sense most of the time when I'm working, because I want to go look at the notifications only when I want to, not whenever that comes up. So that is a good thing that is helping me. How does your thing, how do you not get distracted?

I get distracted a lot. Um, but what helps is turning off notifications? So I think you might've seen on telegram. I sometimes replay after a day or even later. So, um, I don't think it is important to reply to everybody, uh, in a minute or two in and out of it in the same day. If something is really important and calls for attention, the other person will call so Aravind,. You have something really important to say, you might call me. Right? And Hey, this is very important. It needs your attention right now. So I really think if something is important, people will reach us in a more urgent way. And until then it is okay to delay things and focus more on the things that you want to do now. So that really helps me in being distracted glass. Uh, also had this feature on my phone, which turns it off. So I have a Samsung phone and it has this feature where it auto restarts. Every day at 3:30 AM and I have to enter, there are two passwords. One is the unlock password we have and one is the firmware password. So it does not turn on at all until I enter my passcode. Uh, so everyday when I wake up, I wake up. I turned off phone by default and I have to enter my password twice to turn it on. So it is already, uh, you know, an extra step. And whenever we make things a little difficult for ourselves, we usually don't do that. So I intentionally make. Turning on the phone, a little difficult for me and it's by default turn off. And it allows me to turn on my iPad and, you know, I don't have internet. My internet is just from the mobile. I don't have wifi at my home. So no mobile, no internet iPad. I write my morning pages on my iPad. And, uh, yeah, that, that's how I write. Uh, I have found some, some, you know, A range of time where I am productive in the writing department, like in the morning from 4:00 AM to 6:00 AM. I have seen from like, from several years, it is the time where I write songs, the best it's when the whole world is asleep and I am up connected with my heart and my thoughts and my feelings. And it's the best time to write, uh, songs for me. So to read, that's what I was doing before recording this podcast. Cause I was just sitting down with my ukulele. I had no plans of writing. And what I've seen is I think we can apply this to lots of things, which is you start you just like, I start with an existing song, I start playing it and stuff. And then suddenly. You know, an original thought pops up a feeling comes and says like, Hey, this is how I'm feeling. Let's try writing about it. So then I start writing that, but it's still like, you know, I'm not starting from a blank page. I'm starting from a song I'd written before or some other song I'm listening to. And then suddenly I have this, you know, other thought too, we have to sit down. Wait something and start. So that really helps. I think we can apply it, um, in other things as well, where we just, the act of sitting down to write and writing a few lines. It could, you could write a affirmation or prayer or just right today is Monday and just, you know, Begin. And that really helps. And I think we should all find our own rythm and find the times that work for us and the time, which is least distracted, which is, yeah, our fleas distraction mornings are usually best because when the world sleeps, there are fewer people, uh, everywhere. So it allows you to, yeah. Yeah.

There are very few people who want your time.

Exactly. A few people who want your time as well as. It's just so quiet at night. I love it. I am a night owl and I'm used to staying up all night because it's beautiful. There are zero distractions and it's just a wonderful time to be creative.

I like, how have you used friction to like, not do the things you don't want? Like turning off your phone because in the last episode, I think the one where we talked about working from home, we were telling we should remove the friction as much as possible so that we can go do our thing. And then the same thought or the same idea as being continued, that we should use friction to not do the things that we don't want.

We should remove the friction as much as possible so that we can go do our thing. ... We should use friction to not do the things that we don't want.

Exactly. Because I think we, it's very comfortable to just open your phone, check Twitter or check if you got, you know, a message from your significant other, or, you know, just do those things because it's really comfortable and we are not really doing anything. We are reacting to the world. We are reacting to a message. We are continuing a conversation. It's not. You know, starting something it's usually reacting to the world and, uh, we have to be mindful of that and be okay with it that okay. When I pick my phone, I get distracted and I do these other things and it's okay. Because that's how everyone has designed the apps to be, you know, be checked. To have the in finite scroll so that you can keep scrolling and keep finding new information and the brain loves it. Like, wow, this is another new thing. So, um, yeah, that, that is something we should be okay with. Like, this is how it is, but is, this is what I want. And if this is not what I want, how can I prevent getting here in the first place? So it it's really helpful to design our environment and, uh, Yeah, I have limits on how we do things and make things which are not best for us difficult to do. And I think that's how we can be better writers. We can, you know, look more into ourselves rather than outside and, uh, react. So yeah, I think this will make us better writers. One

thing to remember is that you don't have to publish or write out in the public. You can just write for yourself.

Yeah, definitely. You know, I think of this, uh, learning in the open thing and I know that it is not my thing. Like it's a big thing right now these days everyone's saying, you know, learn in the open, uh, let the world see your progress, which is great because, uh, it creates more content, right? When you're learning in the open. You are actually, you know, if you're saying we are doing this podcast and you know, like while we have these pre podcast talks, Aravind and, I usually have a call where we discuss the structure. If we make that a, you know, like just stream it become additional content and it would make, because you're not like not famous, but yeah, basically a more things to share with the world. Yeah, more discoverable and it would show people how we think and stuff, but sometimes you don't want to do it. Like, Hey, we could actually do this for the podcast. We actually did think about it, but I don't want to do it for everything. Like when I'm writing a song, I don't want to share that because it's, I don't even know if it will turn into a song. So I don't want to sit in front of the camera and. For me. And it's very important to be in the zone. I'm not doing this to share it with the world. I'm doing this for myself. So having that clarity on why you are doing something is important. Uh, if you want to be, uh, you know, like very discoverable and if you want the world to see you work, uh, then you should learn in the open. Otherwise it truly is something which you should think like why,

when you're talking about writing, most people think you write books, you write. Blog posts and all of these things are out in the public. That is not the case, but because you can write for yourself. Absolutely. I mean,

it's very, yeah, it's really good to write for yourself and. You have to keep some things personal. And I usually think of Apple. When I think of this, they are so private about the things they're working on. And I'll tell you why I feel working in the open is not that great, always for everybody. Uh, because when you share what you're doing, you're getting that dopamine hit. You're getting that. Okay. You know, like. Once you put that video out there of yourself doing something. I think it's, it's more unlikely that you will finish it because then your drive is not coming from within yourself. It is coming from outside. It is coming from the likes. You get it as coming from the views. You get it's coming from what people think about it. So I would say if it is something where you want other people's input, So if I'm making an open source app and I want to know what others are thinking, then I would do it in the open so that everyone can contribute. Everyone can, you know, say what they think about it. But if it's something that is for me, I don't want or see it. If it's a song I want to finish that song. It is very personal. I don't want inputs from the world, so I would choose to yeah, just do it. On my own and not talk about it or shared about it because once I shared a song with people, I instantly get like, Hey, while you did a song, like so cool. Uh, yeah. Yeah. I think we should keep things secret until they are ready. Uh, yeah. Something secret until the reality. Do you have a secret project or something that you work on, but you don't want to tell the world. Yeah. And how, how do you find it, like compared to other projects which have told people about, uh, you know, what, how, how different is it

the same analogy applies I mean, as you said, I was working on this open source and gets with him, uh, and I've got people to like it and tell that it is so cool. So I don't have to, uh, maybe the motivation to continue working on that project. I mean, it's not like the project is dead or something. I just made an update yesterday, but the dopamine hit thing is real. Uh, now, now that the project or the team is, uh, in a good state, I can like go back to focus on other things, but, uh, Because that other project that I'm working on is not known in the public, not known to like a lot of people. I have a, like a motivation or what can you say, I want to finish it and like let it out in the public. That's great. I think I did not know about your theme until it was out. You did not tell me. It's only when I saw your website live. I thought like, wow, this is cool. Well, that was a very short process too. It was in

three. Yeah, but still like you, you did not write it in the open or, you know, you just wrote, you know

yeah, that does. That's a good point. I did not like to tweet out when I started

saying, Hey guys, I'm doing this school thing and stuff and wait for, likes, you just did what you had to, rather than sharing the process. So I think it's good to do that. When you want to finish things.

I remember you telling me about something called mood diary, a what is that? Is it somewhere that you are write? How you feel?

It's basically a journal where I write about intense feelings that I'm feeling. There is a list of all the feelings that I have and. I look at the list and I see which of the feelings I'm appealing right now. What are the prominent feelings that I'm feeling? And I selected, and I write an email to myself and. It's usually a long meal where everything that I'm feeding, which is overwhelming is written out. It could also be something really nice that is happening. And I just want to record that really happy feeling, but it's also sometimes about anxiety or anger or, uh, just being, you know, having fear or. Just be feeling like I'm worthless or something sometimes. So those things I write down and it allows me to get it out of my system, into an email, which I sent to myself and it is a journal whenever I need. Self-help whenever I need to let things out that that's what I use and it is, it is really helpful. And I think I would, I would recommend everyone to try that because is when we are feeling something really strong. It, it gets very, I would say it gets very overwhelming. Yeah. So to come out of it, it's good to write down and sometimes even go and reread it. Like what, what did I write before? And you will notice that the things that bothered you before are not something that. You know, that is bothering you now, or it's not something that as critical or as important as you felt back then, feelings usually, uh, they, the intensity uses over time. If you're feeling upset the next day, you won't feel right. Really upset, but yeah, if you're feeling upset for seven days, that's depression. So, uh, even that is important to know like, Oh, I'm still feeling the same. So that that is something you can track for me. It's really helpful to have a clear mind to record intense feelings, basically. And I think it is similar to your morning pages journal, where you write everything that you have feeling, but it's just different in one way, where. It's more about intense feelings. It's more about what is bothering you right now, what feels heavy? So that's something and it can also be something that happens. Something really nice that happened. You're grateful for. And you're like, wow, this is amazing. And I need to record it. That it could also be that. And maybe you can't wait until morning to write it down. You might think that, you know, you might lose some information. You just write it. And you're mood diary. So yeah, that's something that's grateful.

So these are all the thoughts we had about writing Brittik and I do a lot of writing and I hope you inculcate that habit as well. If you already write or are planning to start, please let us know on Twitter. It would be happy to hear your process and maybe help you in the process.

So happy writing, everybody. So write more, write for clarity, write for focus, write for saving your feelings and your experiences that you have in the side. Thank you.