I decided to adapt this image to my own situation. the original image contrasted what the person thinks with what he says, which isn’t much. I do talk a bit more, but I write even more than that – and some people have already remarked that my blogs are too long. But what I think is huge, and I’ve realized that thinking takes up a great deal of my time. I spend a lot of time in my head.
Much of what I’m writing this year is stuff I’ve been thinking about for many years, but never really had the chance to get down on paper (or in words, anyway). Writing has given me a chance to clarify my thinking a great deal. Now that I’m retired, my life has lost some of the definition and structure that it had when I was working. I used to think a lot about lesson planning and how to get a point across to my students. I also thought about how to pay the bills and get out of debt. I thought about how to keep up my housework and laundry, etc. I also had a more active social life when I lived in the Twin Cities, so I had places to go and things to do, and I thought about what to wear and how to get to this or that event. Now, I have far fewer events to attend, and much more time on my hands to think about life in general, and my own life, in particular. Now that I’m retired, I think less about issues in education and more about things like spiritual growth, what I believe in and stand for, and what I have yet to accomplish before I leave this physical life. That’s a lot to think about.
I’ve always been most comfortable being alone, but growing up in a family of six (including myself), I was also used to being around people. It wasn’t until I reached my thirties that I really learned to be comfortable being alone. I learned that being alone does not necessarily mean being lonely, even if you are not “in a relationship.” I also began to realize that I’m the type of person who literally pulls energy from the silence. Others get their energy from being around other people, but I have found that being with others drains my energy. No wonder I was so terribly tired when I got home from work – being cooped up in a classroom full of kids was a huge energy drain! And although I love to attend Eckankar seminars, that drains my energy, too, and I have to plan my time very carefully in order to avoid burnout.
Living alone has a few advantages, and one of those, for a thinker like me, is the opportunity to talk to myself. A lot of what I write I talk out first, so the graphic is not totally accurate in the matter of what I say. What I say to others is not that much, but what I say to myself is considerable, some days. Still, writing is mostly a silent activity, and if you were to bug my apartment, you would hear a lot of silences. Much of my contact with friends is silent, too, as I do a lot of communication by email and text chat.
How does writing clarify my thoughts?
Leo Babuta, who writes a blog called zenhabits, has beaten me to the punch. He suggests that writing every day will change your life, and I already know that’s true. He gave this list of ways that writing helps to clarify our thoughts. Babuta’s words are in bold and mine are in normal font.
1) Writing helps you reflect on your life and changes you’re making. This is incredibly valuable, as often we do things without realizing why, or what effects these things are having on us. I have done a lot of reflection since I started my two blogs, (click on the link to go to my other blog) and have written about topics such as forgiveness, grace, higher consciousness, social habits, and some of the changes I’m experiencing in my life since I retired from teaching. I think I’m a lot closer to understanding why I have done things in the past, how I created my present situation, why I am doing what I’m doing now, and what I hope to accomplish with the rest of my life.
2) Thoughts and feelings are nebulous happenings in our mind holes, but writing forces us to crystalize those thoughts and put them in a logical order. Not only do I have to put thoughts in order, I also have to choose just the right words to express each thought so that my readers can follow my logic. I strive to use more accurate verbs and more colorful descriptive adjectives and adverbs. I am also trying to shine a light on my subconscious thought processes, to uncover the reasons – and often the fears and limiting beliefs – behind my conscious thoughts, and my behavior.
3) Writing for an audience (even if the audience is just one person) helps you to think from the perspective of the audience. That’s when the magic starts, because once you get into the reader’s mindset, you begin to understand readers and customers and colleagues and friends better. You have empathy and a wider understanding of the world. In some respects, writing for an audience is like planning a lesson that you’ve taught before for a new group of kids. Each class is different, so even though I was teaching the same lessons from year to year, my approach was slightly different every year. A lesson plan that worked great last year might fail with this year’s crop for one reason or another. It all depends on the kids. In writing for an audience, I am cognizant that there may be two types of people reading my blogs. Most of my friends think a great deal like I do, because they share my interests in education, spirituality, travel, and so forth. I know that most of them can easily follow what I have to say. To this group, I try to offer new insights or a new way to express a familiar truth, in order to generate contemplation seeds for others to enjoy. The rest of my audience is composed of family members who haven’t had many of the life experiences that I have been through, such as being single most of my life, living in a foreign country for ten years, and leaving the religion of my youth for a new spiritual path. Similarly, I have not had some of their experiences, such as buying and taking care of a a house or raising children. I know that I no longer share the same beliefs about that world with these people, and that they may find my way of thinking strange, frightening, or even objectionable. To this part of my audience, I try to at least explain my ideas as clearly as possible in a way that is not critical of others.
4) Writing daily forces you to come up with new ideas regularly, and so that forces you to solve the very important problem of where to get ideas. What’s the answer to that problem? Ideas are everywhere! In the people you talk to, in your life experiments, in things you read online, in new ventures and magazines and films and music and novels. But when you write regularly, your eyes are open to these ideas. This has been one of the best benefits of daily writing. I find that I am more aware of what is going on in the world around me now that I am thinking of things to write about. I used to be afraid that I wouldn’t find enough writing topics for one blog, let alone, two, but somehow, each day, there are a couple of things that catch my attention or spark my imagination. I am finding, also, that images are great for generating thought, and I have started to collect images that speak to me. I pay a lot more attention to quotes, as well, and I have come to appreciate the ability that I see in others to communicate powerful thoughts succinctly.
One more benefit. Writing things like this helps me to express my ideas much more clearly in conversation. Sometimes I can’t believe how many opportunities I have had, just since I started these blogs, to engage in conversation about some topic that I have just written about. Knowing as I do that there are no coincidences, I marvel at the way Divine Spirit has structured my life to make this happen. 🙂