One aspect of writing that tends to get lost in all the discourse is that writing is thinking. The process of putting your thoughts into words is a form of reasoning that clarifies and condenses those thoughts. Writing is how I discover what matters to me. Writing is where I find out what I think.
This is why the first draft is often the hardest and why everybody dreads it. That’s the part where you dive into yourself and dredge up the truth itself.
Of course everybody wants to skip that. They want the residue that writing leaves behind—text—because that petrification of metaphors is valued as a proxy for thought. That value is both cultural and economic, so people want it, seek it out, and pay for it. Writing done well will lead others to follow your own path of thinking. Reading becomes thinking as well in process that is a mirror image to that of writing. The text detritus that the writing process leaves behind helps sell what needs to be sold, market what needs to be marketed, and guide what needs to be guided.
But, in a slight twist on the usual aphorism, it’s only the thought that counts. Everything else gets value from proximity.
This process is inherently unnerving when it works because the clarity it affords can be painful.
That clear sight fades quickly as rationalisation sets in, but if you get into the habit of writing you can keep the ghosts of self-construction at bay—at least at enough of a distance to afford some space to negotiate with them.
This is what everybody is so eager to lose, because all that matters to them is the economic value of the textual byproduct.
Fair, given that economic value is what pays the bills and keeps you housed and fed. But that desire for efficiency and productivity risks mistaking the output for the process.
The value in writing lies in what we discover while writing.
Auto-generating text based on other people’s discoveries and then automatically summarising that text by finding commonalities with existing text creates a loop of mechanised nonsense.
It’s a prayer wheel for capitalism.
A mechanical recitation of static money mantras that paid off it the past. Spin the wheel and the money will flow again because obviously an inner life can’t have any value.
Obviously an inner life has no value.
This isn’t the newsletter I had planned.
Even though writing prose is, directly and indirectly, a major source of income for me, readers aren’t why I write.
I’ve been working on a few essays that require both focus and clarity. Analyses and critiques. All stuff that matters. Just stuff that doesn’t matter to me today. They’re thoughts that require exertion and effort, but contain little of today’s truth. Maybe they’ll congeal into cohesive thoughts next week. Maybe they won’t.
This newsletter was supposed to be different, but that wasn’t where my mind is at.
My thoughts rarely feel clear. This is why I write. Unblanking the page is a process that, for a few moments, draws the curtains back and lets the sun in.
That light reveals, and today my thoughts are on those who seem eager to bargain away that revelation.
I can’t help but feel that it will make the world a darker place.
This reference to Nietzsche’s On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense was initially unintentional, but feels rather apt in the moment, so I’m keeping it. ↩︎