✍️AIP 77 Atomic-Essays The Secret Learning Tool

✍️AIP 77 Atomic-Essays The Secret Learning Tool
Photo by Unseen Studio / Unsplash

It was 9:00 p.m. on a school night, and I had yet to start my English paper on The Catcher In The Rye, due the next day.

Groaning, I turned on the computer and opened a blank Google Doc. For fifteen minutes, I stared at the screen, agonizing over how I would analyze Holden's journey of adolescent rebellion—how he felt de-motivated by the forced tests, readings, and essays he had in school and how he would rather see his sister Phoebe, get with the chicks, and do other fun adult stuff.

The irony.

I typed a few sentences, which I immediately deleted because I thought they sucked. I typed a few more, which I deleted again. I kept opening Civ 6 every ten minutes and taking a single turn before returning to my writing. I repeated this cycle for three hours until I turned in a shitty rough draft with minimal proofreads.

Going to bed that night, I had one thought: writing sucks.

I'm not alone. The tragedy is many kids grow up despising writing. We associate it with the forced essays on topics we don't care about in school. Rarely are we taught how to write. Oh, we're taught "how to write" for the classroom—apparently, the only worthwhile writing has an introduction, three body paragraphs, a conclusion, and a tinge of sadness you aren't doing something else.

But we aren't taught how to write with the soul.

Rarely in school was I given the chance to write about something I deeply cared about. To find my own voice. To break the rules. To have three sentences start with "to" because that's how I wanted my writing to sound rather than what sounds "prim and proper."

This is a tragedy because as I have fallen in love with writing outside school through my content creation, I have realized, it isn't just a tool for school.

Writing is the ultimate secret learning tool of life.

How so?

First, writing helps us learn more about ourselves by externalizing our thoughts and feelings into the physical world. There, they can be analyzed, shaped, and shared.

Second, writing helps us express our knowledge for others to consume—hey what's happening right now?!

Finally, writing helps us learn by uncovering the holes in our knowledge and filling them. Writing is an act of thinking in itself. If you have clear writing, you have clear thinking.

It's this last point I want to explore more for the rest of this piece. Over the last few years, I have gotten more into writing to uncover and fill holes in my knowledge in the form of atomic essays.

What are atom essays and how do you write them?

Atomic essays are short, 100 to 500-word essays, concise, and usually can be written in 30 minutes or less.

Most crucially, they can be written on anything—sports, chemistry, psychology—and in any way—with improper grammar, punctuation, heck with a mixing of languages if you want. They can be solely for you or they can be shared with others. They can be on a topic you know about or on something you want to explore.

The steps to writing an atomic essay are very simple. First, you come up with an idea to write about. Let's say you wanted to write about how to achieve happiness in life. Then you open up a blank document or fresh notepad, and title your atomic essay with a statement you will argue inside of the piece. For example, happiness is relinquishing of desire.

You have the option of creating an outline on the points you want to make throughout the essay and than are free to go YIPPEEE! I recommend rough drafting by vomiting everything you want to say onto the page without any spell checking or refining of thought. Just get the thoughts out there.

Once you have finished rough drafting, you can edit the piece right away, wait a few days before coming back to it with fresh eyes, or give the whole editing process a slap in the face and leave it in the rough drafting stage--gasp, what would your English teacher say?

What you do with the piece afterward is up to you. Share it, write another atomic essay related to it, sacrifice it to the spaghetti gods, it's your choice.

When I first started writing atomic essays a few years ago, it took some time for me to fall in love with the process of writing again. My distaste for writing from school continued into my atomic essay writing for a long time. In the first few months, I wrote like my literature professor instead of like me. I added unnecessarily big words, danced around my point, and refrained from using jokes of any sort.

Through writing atomic essays over the last few years, I have not only fallen back in love with the process of writing but also skyrocketed my learning to unimaginable levels. I have delved into topics such as gamification, Personal Knowledge Management (PKM), meta-learning, dating, and more. These are all topics I would never have been able to touch in high school.

People are starting to notice.

I remember a few weeks ago; I was sitting and talking with a few friends for lunch when the topic of gamification came up. One of my friends, being a past video game addict, asked me how games could possibly be helpful in real life. I responded, practically mirroring everything I had written in my atomic essay (a little longer than your usual one) Life Is A Game Here's: How You Play. After, he looked at me stunned.

"How did you know all that?"

I answered like I always do: I wrote about it.

One question you might be asking is where the heck do I get all the ideas for my atomic essays?

Honestly, I have the opposite problem. The question is, which ideas do I prioritize over the other ones? I never struggle to find things to write about because I have built a Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) system to find and cultivate ideas over time.

Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) is the art of collecting ideas from our daily experiences, readings, or work, and nurturing them to improve productivity and creativity. How do you collect these ideas? Wait for it, you write them down… Sorry I had to do it.

There are so many ways you can build a PKM system, but my favorite is Obsidian. It's a modern digital linked-based notetaking app that allows you to grow your knowledge in an interconnected web of thought over time. It's like growing your own personal Wikipedia page of atomic essays. If you want to learn more about Obsidian and build a system to find ideas for your atomic essays, check out my Obsidian Beginner Resource List.

Save yourself countless hours of time and energy looking for the best Obsidian learning resources. It includes all of the resources I wish I had on Obsidian 3 years ago, including the best creators to follow, links to immerse yourself in the community, and my most popular curated content on Obsidian.

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P.S. Some of the links below are Amazon affiliate links.
📖Book - Writing To Learn: of course I had to include this book in this piece. The whole book is founded on the idea that writing can be a learning tool in itself rather than just a forced tool for English teachers to assess your understanding of a book.
🎙️Podcast - 3 Principles to Master Storytelling | Shaan Puri | How I Write Podcast: The most insightful yet simple idea I got from this pod is that stories are simply intentions with obstacles. A person doing something without resistance is usually boring. What makes a story engaging is the struggle.
📺YouTube Video - Harvard Psychologist On Why People Are Sad, Lonely, And Single: The most insightful idea I got from this pod is that happiness is acceptance of what is. Anytime you desire something that isn't, you feel unhappy. The moments where you are most happy are the moments where you are completely present and content with what is happening. Every time this isn't the case, it's because your expectations don't align with reality. This doesn't mean you can't and shouldn't act to change the external world. But it does mean you can't expect your actions to always have the desired results.