What I talk about when I talk about… |||

Why I write

A photo of a typewriter with the words ‘Write something’ on the paper in the typewriter roll Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

I don’t write to be heard or, more accurately, to have my thoughts read. That might be an odd thing to write on a publicly accessible self-publishing website.

You’ve got nothing to say but you say it anyway

So Simpatico by Villagers

I could pretend that having achieved my ambition to get my name in print in 2006 – I was a co-author of The London Collection – means I don’t have an unquenched thirst in that regard, but the truth is I don’t think I have anything to say. There’s no story I feel compelled to tell. (Yet.) I do not have a story in me that could effect a positive transformation in the world. (Yet.) I swear this isn’t false self-deprecation. (Yet.)

I write to think

For the best part of a fortnight, before I committed anything to digital paper, I had the opening line of this blog post swirling around my head: “I write to think.” And then I wrote it. And then I changed it to add “I write because I think”. So I immediately doubled my starting point because I started writing. And then more thoughts came into my head because there was more room for them and because there was something external to bounce off and generate more words.

Writing thoughts down allows more thoughts to flow. And so I write my thoughts, then I look at my thoughts, then I think some more, and my thoughts evolve, develop, sometimes transform.

So the sometimes virtuous, sometimes vicious cycle goes.1

I write to get things out of my head

My internal monologue speaks for itself
So I let it all out, drag myself from the shelf

You Could Keep Me Talking by The Leisure Society

As someone with a strong inner voice I have an almost constant companion talking to me.2 This is in stark contrast to my default taciturn exterior. Maybe there’s some force-balance thing going on there. Direction of causality to be debated.

Sometimes my inner voice is commentating on what I’m doing or saying as I’m doing or saying it – like when people on tv have producers talking to them through their earpieces.

Sometimes it’s more of a Socratic dialogue working through problems, generating ideas, critiquing conversations or meetings I’ve just had.

Sometimes it – I – will think of a creative turn of phrase that in all honesty will never see the light of day no matter how clever or witty or inspiring I think it is.

More often, I will be thinking of song lyrics written by people more productively creative – actual creators who, even if I think I could do better, actually do, unlike me. To be more accurate, when I’m hearing song lyrics, I’m usually playing the song in my head rather than reciting the lyrics cold – the classic earworm.

Increasingly rarely, thankfully,3 my inner voice is hurling toxic criticism at me. Nowadays, I’m well equipped to ignore it, after a few sessions with a professional coach.

I find it therapeutic to make the internal monologue external (which is not the same as making it public). That’s when the line between writing because I think and writing to think blurs.

I write to know what I’m feeling

Sometimes I’ll have a feeling but my inner voice and I have no words or at best inadequate words to describe it. If I can’t get it out of my head, it will turn itself into what it chooses and grow into more than a feeling.4

Writing the feeling down, however inarticulately at first, lets me examine it as a curious observer. I should be clear: these feelings are not always good nor are they always bad: their common characteristic is they’re amorphous. Writing simply helps me to work out what the feeling really is, why it is, what I need to do with it.

Recently, for example, by writing in my daily journal about my grumpiness when it happens, I’ve worked out that not doing physical exercise is detrimental to my moods. I already knew it enhanced my mood. What I didn’t realise was not doing it has a negative, not just a neutral, effect.

Some people process feelings by ‘thinking out loud’. I write.

I write as a teeny, tiny act of rebellion

There’s a part of me that recognises I have a certain facility with words. And another part of me feels that only using that talent for work, when I’m being paid to apply it to help drive a behaviour to benefit a business, is a waste, is wrong.

What could be a better rebellion against the ultra-capitalist notion that everything has to have an ROI and drive economic growth than to do something for the hell of it? To put something out in the world, just to be creative, without expectation or need for a ‘value exchange’?

I won’t bring about the fall of capitalism with my words but I am at least temporarily free of my chains in the moments when I write purely because writing is its own reward. Because to write for my own sake – for the joy and pain of writing and nothing else – is to be free, is to be me, is to be.

I write to think. I think therefore I write. I write therefore I am.

  1. The editing process – or rather, art – which has excised at least 1,000 words from this blog post before publication, is a whole different beast.↩︎

  2. Until relatively recently, I assumed this was normal but apparently not everyone has an inner monologue. Not gonna lie, finding that out was a huge shock.↩︎

  3. Three adverbs in a row! Go directly to writing jail. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.↩︎

  4. That’s two earworms for the price of one sentence right there.↩︎

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