Writing to Think

I know I’m supposed to say that a liberal education teaches you to think but thinking and writing are inextricably intertwined. The columnist, Walter Lippmann, when asked his thoughts on a particular topic is said to have replied, “I don’t know what I think on that one. I haven’t written about it yet.” There is, in modern philosophy, a great debate as to which comes first – thought or language. I have nothing to say about it. All I know is that when I begin to write, I realize that my “thoughts” are usually a jumble of half-baked, incoherent impulses strung together with gaping logical holes between them. It is the act of writing that forces me to think through them and sort them out. Whether you are a novelist, a businessman, a marketing consultant or a historian, writing forces you to make choices and brings clarity and order to your ideas. 

The above is from Fareed Zakaria’s Facebook page. At least for me, it’s abundantly true: Writing allows me to sift through my thoughts and organize them in a presentable way, not just for others, but for myself. One of the reasons I enjoy writing editorials for the newspaper so much is because of that process. In the research I do, which takes up probably 95% of the time devoted to the creation of an editorial, and the writing itself, I learn more about an issue from those I agree with and those I disagree with.

My clarity comes through the writing process, not so much the spoken word. Sure, I love shooting the shit with someone on an interesting topic in person and that can be fun, but it’s not the same as being able to bring it under one coherent piece.

Admittedly, I don’t have much to add to this. Zakaria’s post just struck me as particularly and potently true and applicable to my own experiences.


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