2 August 2009

I imagine I am only one of many, many people who use writing as a way of thinking things through.  Ideas can muddle around in my head, forming roughly coherent thoughts, but it is when I try to articulate them that that they come into focus. 

You’ve seen Word Clouds?  The one depicted here is from my first post in this blog, pulling out the most mentioned words in the WordCloud-17Jul2009WordpressPost-smalllargest type, down to less frequently used ones, and not including words like “the” and “a” and “and.”  Word Clouds suggest thought, a range of interests, an array of focal points, but don’t actually form a directed perspective or argument.  That’s a little what my mind seems like until I try to talk it out, literally or, well, literately.  That is, in writing.

Conversation helps clarify thought too.  But writing is very self-centered, and in a good way.  While you can count on most conversations to run off on tangents, written pieces, while they can run off in different directions, more easily stay focused.  After all, there’s only one speaker in the room.  One’s own written work only has to pay attention to the author’s interest, and needn’t pay deference to anyone else’s.

That has to be part of the appeal of blogging, I suppose.  Any response, and back-and-forth in the online conversation is almost strictly on the bloggers terms.  Weird.  But useful.

In any case, the tangle of concepts, questions and gut-level feelings whirling around the murky container of my brain is best looked at in the light of day, you might say.  Sure, there are phrases, concepts, that in small bits are quite coherent, but don’t really come together into anything resembling a deeper understanding of the whole picture, regardless of topic.  That is, until I start trying to articulate it.  Pulling the mess out, whether in conversation or writing, is really helpful, and since I live a bit like a hermit, spending long hours with just me and the cats, writing has long been a refuge to sort things out.  If I try to articulate something (written or spoken), I have to construct my understanding of it.  When I try to do that, sometimes I reveal what I’d term “bad thinking” – illogical thought, conflicting concepts, poor arguments for what is actually a knee-jerk reaction.  I sort it out, in order to write it out, and find my path through to a better way of framing it, sometimes in the process changing what I actually think.  Usually that’s because I end up discarding some really bad piece of logic, some prejudice or assumption that just doesn’t bear out once analyzed.

Could I do this without writing it out, or talking it through?  Maybe, but that word cloud swirls, a big interesting fog, making it very difficult to decipher what is going on.  I find that writing, even more than conversation but best paired with it, is almost essential to my ability to think.

And so, write on!