“The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe."
That insightful perspective was articulated by the great author Gustav Flaubert. And it captures my experience well.
I often get new ideas in conversation. But I never fully understand and own those ideas until I write about them, either for myself, or in a blog, or a book. Writing, at its best, is a form of thinking. It clarifies our thoughts. And it leads to new thoughts. It even expands us, when it's done right.
People long kept diaries and journals, reflecting on their day. But few do so today. The daily journal or diary is a great avenue to enhanced self knowledge. So is writing letters to friends and family. Even social media can be used for this purpose, however seldom it actually is. There's no reason, in principle, that a tweet can't serve a spiritual end.
Most of us have had an interesting experience. Maybe you've come away from a lively conversation, having learned something not just from what you heard the other person say, but from what you heard yourself saying in that conversation. Talking, at its best, can be a form of thinking. Socrates showed us this long ago. Yet most people talk just to communicate, question, or to grouse. Talking through a puzzle or problem can be an effective first step in solving it. But writing about something can at times be even more effective. Putting down on paper, or on a screen, what we're thinking allows us both to create a new line of thought, and then to examine it, as if from a short distance, and gain even more perspective.
Here's another common experience, one many of us had when we were in school: Called upon to write on a topic during an exam, we suddenly realized to our shock and amazement how vague and incomplete our ideas were. We felt a twinge of panic. Sometimes the mind went blank, completely offline. What a difference it could have made to write on the exam topics in advance, in preparation for the test itself!
I don't speak from notes when I'm in front of people. But I prepare with notes. That clarifies my thinking and even helps me remember what I want to say. The simple act of making a "To-Do List" before bed can implant the items on the list firmly enough in my memory that, the next day, I don't even need the list. It's already served its purpose.
When we write, we discover, we deepen our understanding, and we remember better. In setting goals, it can be very beneficial to write them out, and chart out the intermediate and more immediate steps that it will take to reach the goal. It stimulates new thought. And it generates motivation.
So: Write to discover! And: Write to become!
It's almost never wrong to write. You heard it here.