Sunday, December 11, 2016

Writing and Reading

I am an ardent believer in writing.

Introspecting and examining deeply held ideas, making the case for the current thought-du-jour and crafting them in an emotionally or intellectually evocative fashion is a very satisfying exercise creatively. It brings about great clarity in ideas, and is sort of a spring cleaning of the mind - good ideas are reinforced and bad ideas are hopefully discarded. Writing is also a very good snapshot of a person in time (or at least, honest writing is) and I enjoy reading my own past work to understand how I've grown and my positions changed. I suppose the real target audience of all this is myself and this blog is just an exercise in thinking aloud. The down side, of course, is that the process requires a lot of honesty and makes one very vulnerable, and I end up constantly double-checking myself, hesitating to commit anything to paper (or disk) so as to not have an embarrassing position that my future (and supposedly wiser) self will find shocking, as has been my experience with occasional past writing. However, this kind of non-commitment makes for a very dull life for someone with a (probably unfounded) sense of moderate intelligence, self-importance and passion for opinion.

Writing is important, but so is reading. In my opinion, reading is really the best way to learn. Not the two-way mode of discussing, but the one-way uninterrupted flow of reading (or listening).

I joined Quora a couple years ago, and encouraged by the sheer audience and variety of topics, began to write rather prolifically. It was very satisfying to contribute and I definitely wrote out several ideas that I'm quite proud of, for both the fact that I had them and the ways I expressed them. The downside was that I was drawn into some discussions in ways that were too emotionally demanding - they had become discussions with other people. I couldn't read anymore, I wanted to interrupt and speak out when I disagreed or suspected bad faith - I had gotten emotionally invested in discussion, and that does not scale. One random day I ended up deleting my account, along with every post I had every written with no backup and I haven't looked back since.

I think I learn the most reading other people's work, uninterrupted by me. Or reading conversations between people about an issue I'm trying to understand. I honestly think direct discussion is mostly _not_ a very good form of learning anything of consequence. Instead, a reasoned and well crafted essay or an hour long speech is more persuasive than any real-time back and forth involving the learner. It is much easier to learn when you are merely observing.

Hopefully I'll read more and write more.


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