writing to forge ingots of thought

This week I’ve been unusually energized through writing. You see, I think many things, and I think them strongly. Some thoughts I’ve had for many years, which I have stubbornly ruminated over and over again, as if chewing the same old thought will reveal new insights.

These thoughts that seemed to take me nowhere… I started getting very bitter about them. I wondered if I’d ever be able to break free of my stale thoughts.

About a year ago, I discovered a phenomenon that can be summarized like this:

Writing is thinking.

Wait. This sounds way too simplistic. I’ve written a ton in my life, taken lots of lecture notes, research notes, journaling… none of this really helped me think.

It turns out, there’s a methodology to follow if you want to write to think. And one way of doing this is what I learned about through taking the Write of Passage course.

In the aftermath of the course, my goal has been to make the lessons my own. To me, the methodology seems similar to mining for ore:

  • I am going about my day when suddenly I have a thought spark in the crags of my mind. It may have been triggered internally or externally, but I see potential in it. It may be an idea! Let’s go!
  • I rappel down a hole of research where first, I dig wide to explore. Then, I look back and see what I found.
  • I search with a particular question in mind. This question helps me identify and locate the valuable ores of thought from all the rubble, extract it, and put it in my bag of potential ideas.
  • It’s easy to get caught in the mind-numbing activity of digging endlessly, so you must have a reason to come back to the surface again. For miners, it can be the act of cashing in. For writers, it can be the act of publishing.
  • I try to verify the value of my finds by asking for a second opinion. They often react to a particular facet of an idea, which is interesting and useful feedback to me.
  • Then, I take the raw ore and write about the idea, keeping the social feedback in mind, with the intention of sharing it with the world. This is like smelting the ore and creating a tiny ingot of thought.
  • Over time, I can fuse ingots of thoughts into more elaborate ideas.

Now, not every fleeting thought will lead to an ingot of anything.

But that’s not the point. The point is to practice getting better at seeing strong sparks in the crags of your mind and in the world, and knowing what to do with them. Through nothing but a deep personal interest in the world, you can build a small fortune of ideas, one ingot at the time.

(And that’s a heck of a lot more appealing than a brain full of stale, imaginary thoughts!)

Originally published on Substack

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