7 Ways Writing Improves Creativity

by Tom Kenny (@tkenny)

A year of writing an article every week has taught me much about the positive effect it has on creativity. I’ve also realised just how important writing is from when I stopped writing for a few years before this year of activity.

Great designers write

Write more, be more creative

I’m a better designer when I write. It’s easier to focus, my thoughts are clearer, I have more (and better) ideas and I’m more creative. Read on to find out why.

1. Writing Accelerates Learning

When I started blogging, I had no idea the positive effect it would have on my learning. I was mostly doing it to help my poor memory at the time. I’ve learnt more from teaching as much as I can about everything I’ve learnt over the years than anything else.

Writing Improves Thinking

The act of writing forces you to think more deeply about what you’re teaching.

You have to express your knowledge in a well constructed and easy to understand format rather than a jumble of thoughts in your head. This process can frequently lead to discovering more about the subject you’re teaching through curiosity and a desire to deliver as much value as possible.

Not convinced it forces you to think more deeply? 99u points out that Meredith Maran interviewed writers on why they write for her book Why We Write:

Nearly all of the responses are self-serving, but there is a beautiful, necessary motive behind it: Writing provides a pocket of time in the present moment to reflect, digest, and to think deeply.

If you’ve never written consistently before, you may well think it’s because you have nothing to say but actually, you write to find out what you have to say.

Deep Thinking (from Writing) Leads to More Ideas and Quantity Leads to Quality

You may be looking for the perfect idea but it isn’t going to magically come out of nowhere. Only hard work powers a lightbulb moment.

On top of that, high quality work is more likely to happen from more ideas rather than less. Quantity leads to quality.

Writing more leads to more ideas which in turn leads to better ideas.

Sharing Feels Good

We’re so fortunate in the web design industry that there are so many resources out there to learn from, free or not. Whether it’s an ego thing or we genuinely want to help others, we love to share.

When you share what you learn, you’re doing your bit to help make the web a better place, no matter how little.

As you’ll see in the next point, happiness boosts creativity.

2. Writing is Good for Your Health and Makes You Happier

Every writer struggles with writing, even on a regular basis. I’m currently struggling writing this very article and in these tough times, it can feel like it doesn’t make you happier but it does.

Happiness boosts creativity:

“Researchers have found that people are more likely to have a creative breakthrough if they were happy the day before. Creativity is less likely to be present with negative emotions such as fear, anger, sadness, and anxiety; it is positively associated with positive emotions such as joy, love, and curiosity.”

Blogging is good for your health too. Richard Branson thinks so to:

“Blogging every day is a good way to keep engaged with the latest trends, one of which is the growing area of health and wellness. Personally, I think blogging is good for your health too. It keeps the mind engaged and is an outlet for creativity, as well as encouraging communication.”

You wouldn’t think Richard Branson would attribute health and creativity to writing but you can’t ignore one of the most successful people of all time in business.

3. Writing Exercises Your Creative Muscles

Keeping your creativity flowing with a creative hobby is a very effective way to become more creative without doing any extra work and writing can be a part of that too.

Creativity isn’t something you’re born with. It comes easier to some people than others, but no matter who you are, it has to be exercised like a muscle. Those who practice creativity more, find it much easier to be more creative because they’re used to it.

Writing about design keeps that creativity muscle working amongst all the other benefits it brings.

4. Writing Defines Processes

One of the big problems with designers and the lack of creativity is our obsession with tools and techniques. Better tools or new frameworks won’t solve struggles with creativity.

A well defined process frees you up to think more creatively because you don’t have to spend energy on thinking about it. It’s probably wise to revise your process once in a while but drag yourself away from the obsession many designers have and you’ll see a creative boost others don’t have time for while they’re downing in frameworks and plugins.

5. Writing Solidifies Good Ideas

When an unnamed but apparently well known front-end developer wrote an article in response to mine about the 80/20 hybrid approach to designing in the browser, he attacked my thoughts using phrases such as “flimsy arguments” and “false statements”.

He must have missed the part where I pointed out that my so-called “flimsy arguments” and “false statements” were from actual conversations with designers. It was quite the opposite, as his arguments didn’t have any substance behind them, they were weak and it seemed like he wasn’t very opened minded with a desperate need to defend the way he choses to work.

You can read my own response clarifying my views on the matter. Writing that response solidified my 80/20 hybrid approach to designing in the browser even more. I now have more belief in the way I work but I would have been open to improvements had the criticism not been flimsy itself.

6. Writing Gives You a Deeper Understanding of Your Projects

If you can write the copy for projects you design, or work directly with a copywriter, you’ll understand the project much more than the average designer because the average designer doesn’t do much research or any research at all.

Building a foundation with research helps to get past the creative block of the intimidating blank screen and this is the heart of good copywriting and research.

Rally Interactive used this technique expertly to design the wonderful National Parks app. Find out more about that in this issue of Learn from Great Design I wrote about their excellent case study.

What’s the best way to organise your research? Writing, of course.

7. Great Designers Write

Think about your favourite designers for a few minutes. Chances are you know about them because they write. It gives you a greater understanding of how they work and their views about design.

We all read excellent articles from the likes of Smashing Magazine and A List Apart as well as many others. We all know great designers write because we read their articles regularly.

Great designers write. If you haven’t started writing, start now and if you have, write more. You won’t regret it, I promise.

Writing Improves Confidence

Ultimately, the improvement writing makes to your creativity will also improve your design confidence. Struggles with creative block will decrease as a result.


  1. Writing Accelerates Learning
  2. Writing is Good for Your Health and Makes You Happier
  3. Writing Exercises Your Creative Muscles
  4. Writing Defines Processes
  5. Writing Solidifies Good Ideas
  6. Writing Gives You a Deeper Understanding of Your Projects
  7. Great Designers Write

If you look at each point individually, it’s obvious how each can improve your design confidence. Combine them together and it’s even more obvious how you simply can’t ignore the power of writing.

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by Tom Kenny

I’m a freelance web designer and front-end developer with over 7 years of experience designing for the web. Follow me on Twitter here.