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Calvin, citing Augustine: "I count myself one of the number of those who write as they learn and learn as they write."

John Piper: “Writing became the lever of my thinking and the outlet of my feelings. If I didn't pull the lever, the wheel of thinking did not turn. It jerked and squeaked and halted. But once a pen was in hand, or a keyboard, the fog began to clear and the wheel of thought began to spin with clarity and insight.

Arthur Krystal: “Like most writers, I seem to be smarter in print than in person. In fact, I am smarter when I'm writing. I don't claim this merely because there is usually no one around to observe the false starts and groan-inducing sentences that make a mockery of my presumed intelligence, but because when the work is going well, I'm expressing opinions that I've never uttered in conversation and that otherwise might never occur to me. Nor am I the first to have this thought, which, naturally, occurred to me while composing. According to Edgar Allan Poe, writing in Graham's Magazine, ‘Some Frenchman--possibly Montaigne--says: 'People talk about thinking, but for my part I never think except when I sit down to write.’ I can't find these words in my copy of Montaigne, but I agree with the thought, whoever might have formed it. And it's not because writing helps me to organize my ideas or reveals how I feel about something, but because it actually creates thought or, at least supplies a Petri dish for its genesis.”

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11 thoughts on “Write to Understand”

  1. Mike Francis says:

    This is exactly why I moved from outlines to manuscripts for sermons. I have to write in order to understand. When I was in seminary, I was advised to prepare manuscripts from the beginning–advice I did not implement for 2 years. I discovered that it is far, far too easy to think I understand something or how to say something until I press myself to actually (see above on split infinitives) write. I think writing has made me not only a better exegete but also a better servant of my people in this regard.

  2. This is good, and I’ve found it to be true in my own practice of writing as well. However, I’m not like Piper. The engine for good thinking for me is verbal articulation. The more I talk about a subject and interact over it verbally, the better my thinking becomes. I will look forward to the day when it is much more common to have voice recognition computers so that one can more easily dictate rather than write.

  3. Evan Weeks says:


    This is why I started keeping a blog and writing my thoughts down as I study the bible. If I don’t write, it usually means my life has become too busy, too hectic, and not only am I not writing, I’m not studying or thinking either!

  4. Israel says:

    When writing, I believe God give us the ability to be co-creators. We can imagine worlds, we can imagine people and all that which was in our minds, can now take life in paper. I think it is a beautiful thing.

  5. Israel says:

    And just to clarify, when I mean co-creators I’m talking about bringing our thoughts and putting then down on paper, or electronically, as I am doing right now. And especially when it comes to writing fiction. All those ideas in a way take life in a book, and it is amazing, that God gave us that ability.

  6. Todd says:

    I really appreciate Arthur’s humble comment. I am certainly not smart in person or in writing, but I agree, much of the learning that occurs when I write is still quickly forgotten when in person.

  7. Agreed. Thanks for the encouragement to keep writing!

  8. Russ Veldman says:

    THANK YOU for this post. It has clarified many things for me about the value of writing.

    Your blog is always a must-read for me. Keep up the good work.

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Justin Taylor, PhD

Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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