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Building a blueprint for a better brain by tinkering with the code.
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December 25th, 2019
This episode is dedicated to Aliyah Shaeffer, you can connect with her on Twitter @AliyahShaeffer
Speech and writing are not the same thing. Though each can be superficially converted into the other by transcription or reading, the act of writing and the act of simply talking produce different outcomes.
We need only think of the difference of reading a speech vs. talking about a subject impromptu. Or we might compare the first draft of a piece of writing with the final draft.
But even this last comparison isn’t necessarily a fair one. Any first draft isn’t even that, once actually written. Draft zero occurs in the mind, and currently we cannot capture thoughts as fast as we have them. With the act of writing, sentences can easily change in the mind as they are slowly brought out onto the page. Our mind runs over the tail end of the sentence in several different ways as the actual writing pulls it out of the ether of consciousness and nails it down in some tangible way. Or of course, there are the false starts which are unavoidable in speech and talk but merely warrant a rapid fire punch of the delete key. Even with this first draft, we are already editing, albeit on the fly.
What speech and writing do have in common is that we don’t exactly have an idea what words will tumble out of our mouth or onto the page. It’s a bit like going to a movie. We might have seen the trailer and have a vague, somewhat emotional feel for what is going to happen, but the details from moment to moment, from word to word, are a surprise.
For example with this episode, the topic has been on tumble-dry in the brain for a couple days, and the conclusion which these words are leading up to was certainly the only concrete aspect of consideration up until the actual act of writing. The concept of a Draft Zero emerged somewhat on it’s own, and it seems to have a nice ring to it, indicating that private ethereal realm where our thoughts compose themselves.
The crowning feature of writing addresses our terrible biological memory. Just think for a moment of the times during conversation when the topic has veered off on a tangent and neither person can remember exactly what they were talking about a minute or two earlier. Or even more insidious is the gaslighter in an argument who uses the poor human memory against their opponent by misremembering an earlier point in a way that benefits their own aims.
Very few, if any of us can remember a conversation word for word for any meaningful length of time. Speech disappears almost as fast as we produce it, creating only faint ripples in the mind. We remember tiny blips of conversations, general gist’s, and maybe a quote here and there. We’re probably even subject to the peak-end rule, which dictates that our memory of anything is primarily determined by how it ended and the few peak-emotional moments during the course of the event.
Writing affords us a perfect memory, and the reflective benefit of such tractable fidelity of thought cannot be understated. We can experience a piece of writing over and over with no lapse of memory as we might when we try to think of a conversation we had a week ago.
More importantly is the fact that such writing can be our own thoughts. We all have a somewhat strange tendency to think that we have solid identities that persist through time, and these identities are composed of values which embody prescriptions of action based on what we think of the world. This might be true for some people, but it is more likely to be true for those who have devoted time and energy to the study of their own thoughts.
To put it mildly, most people don’t even know their own thoughts. They just experience them as they happen.
But those who write not only discover what they really think about things, but the ability to reread what one has written allows a person to disagree with their own position with a level of resolution that simply doesn’t exist given our feeble working memory.
Tinkered Thinking, for example, has had almost no planning for it’s 600+ episodes. Only mere keywords to provoke exploration have served as the basis and seed for these episodes. What has emerged in the process, such as the developing Rivalnym framework, the analysis of Money, the increasing focus and analysis of Questions, and more – all of these were surprises until they were written down.
Writing is ultimately much like any endeavor: you won’t know what you’ll find until you get going.
Tinkered Thinking began with a simple question: is it possible to write about the same general topic everyday for 20 minutes? The original goal was just a year, but after 600 days, a light obligation has turned into a valuable necessity, one that provides a tiny sense of accomplishment, no matter how failed or wasted the rest of the day seems. The simple exercise has opened up realms of conceptual imagination that before only felt as though they might be there. The writing actively maps these imaginary areas, making them real, if only by virtue of being black marks on a page.
People certainly sell themselves short on what they think they can do.
The writing version of this would be that people underestimate their own capacity for thoughtfulness and imagination, whether that be fictional novels or novel ideas, so much more exists within a single perspective than even that perspective can realize without actively turning inward and bringing out that inner world:
With writing, we map ourselves onto the real world.
Our thoughts then become a piece of reality that we can work with, and change, and by so doing, we change ourselves.
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