Writing is Thinking
I heard a lecture recently for PHd students. The instructor started by informing the class in quite a dramatic fashion that they’ve never written a thing in their lives.
How can that be?
He went on to explain that they have been writing to an audience of one for years – a teacher – whose job is to read their essay to see what they know.
But for any other piece of writing, he argued, this won’t be the case. For thoughts that are complex, a thinker must write their thoughts. The brain isn’t a big enough “table” to examine even slightly complex ideas. Did you ever think about that?
So, writing is thinking. But reading, he says, is meant to change the the way a reader sees the world (unlike the reason your college professor read your work). So by using writing to think, we are interfering with the reading process.
I would add to this that sometimes writing is thinking and reading is reflection – if the writer is the same person as the reader.
I write a lot, and for different purposes. Since the talk I watched was for PHds, this post is about writing as thinking with some wider applications. This is my strategy;
- I journal daily in an app called DayOne. You can create multiple journals and tag entries. I even print books of my entries since the app allows me to do that. I find that this type of writing ends up being mostly bulleted lists of events of the day and how I was feeling. Occasionally I’ll post a photo if it’s meaningful. I have 7 years of this type of writing, more if you count my childhood journals. The audience is me and maybe kids and great grandkids one day who find my work.
- I write this blog daily. I don’t really promote it, and there are a few different themes that are a bit scattered but right for my life. Creativity, technology, psychology, and spirituality, I would say. I don’t have a target audience though it isn’t purely for me – if one of my 365 blog posts a year provides value to someone else, just one time, I’ve done my job. And in order to do that, I publish every day like a fisherman goes fishing. Doesn’t matter if my entry doesn’t resonate every time because the ones that resonate wouldn’t happen without the daily habit (because I’d only write when I felt like it, which would reduce the amount of at-bats I’d have). Plus, if writing is thinking, then I can justifiably say that I think deeply about subjects that interest me each day.
- I write my book on education every day. This is more structured, more argumentative writing. This is to provide value to the customers I serve as an education and technology expert. I write books in an app called Ulysses which allows me to write in a modular way.
- I collect ideas in an app called drafts throughout the day. Just when it occurs to me. These are just little notes that will become blog posts or chapters or songs or podcasts.
- I write what I call paraphernalia in Evernote, which is a popular note taking app. Grocery lists, where I parked, notes to talk about at therapy. Anything that doesn’t fit into an above category tends to go here.
Writing is thinking. I feel like as introvert there a lot of buckets in which to place my thoughts and develop ideas. Ideas that might provide value to you or just me.
And if that isn’t the point of living, to provide value… what is?