Writing to know what I think

“I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.” ~Joan Didion

I do write to find out what I am thinking. More often than not, I’m surprised by what shows up on the page.

In fact, I tend to have little interest in writing about things I know. When I was trying to maintain a blog for my little business, I found it excruciating to try to write posts that shared information about coaching or yoga or Reiki. The posts were horribly boring and stilted (and mostly unread).

But the blog posts I write here are a joy. I start with a vague idea of what I want to explore and then write the post to find out what I really think, what I long for, what I fear, where I hurt, and what it all means. Some days I have a better idea of where it might take me than others, but I always learn something about me in the process.

Writing for me is a process of self-discovery. It’s the conduit that allows me to channel what’s hiding in my unconscious and subconscious up into the light of day where I can make use of it. It’s the light I shine on my inner  landscape to explore the terrain.  It’s how I bring what I know in my heart, my soul, and my body up to a conscious, verbal level. When I am struggling with some issue and don’t know what I think, I find my fingers itching for my pen (or my keyboard) so I can see what arises as I start to write.

I love this process and the gifts that it brings me, but it has its challenges too. Like my struggles to write my business blog, I frequently find it difficult to write about things I already consciously know. It feels unnatural (and frankly rather boring), and the words just don’t flow. It’s painful to write, and the result is always painful to read.

On the other hand, when it comes to writing stories, I tend to feel stuck until I have at least a rough outline of the plot, the characters, and the setting. Of course, that may change over time as I discover where the writing takes me, but without a general map of where I’m heading, I’m lost. This is much like my need for at least a vague idea of my field of exploration when I start a blog post. I need some structure and knowledge about what I want to say in order to get started, but I also need the space to let things arise from the creative, intuitive depths as I go along. (It always comes back to balance somehow, doesn’t it?)

I read so many books where people talk about their writing process. It seems that there are as many processes as there are writers, and it’s reassuring to think that there is no one way to go about it.  As I work out my own writing process, it clearly needs to allow for the space for the writing itself to be part of the discovery process of what it is I want to say. It seems like it would be so much easier if I knew what I wanted to say upfront and then say it, but that’s not how I work, it seems.

I write to know what I’m thinking. That’s just what I do. And I’m finally learning to embrace that rather than try to fit into someone else’s mode of writing. I think this just may bring some clarity about the kind of writing projects that will best suit my style.

Of course, as I explore that idea, I’ll need to write to find out what I really think and feel and believe ….

What about you? Why do you write?

A Note on Comments: A chrysalis is by nature a fragile and vulnerable place to be, so I am committed to keeping this a safe place for me and for my readers. Comments sharing your own journey, even if your experience is different from mine, are always welcome and encouraged. Expressions of support or encouragement are also welcome. Comments that criticize, disparage, correct, or in any way attempt to undermine the validity of another person’s experience or personal insight are not welcome here and will be deleted.

5 thoughts on “Writing to know what I think

  1. Your Joan Didion quote is among my favorites. I first ran across it in the mid-80s and in many ways, it is been my writing mantra for almost 30 years. If I want to know what I’m thinking, I turn to writing.

    I know I discovered my writing process when I wrote a novel 17 years ago, and as you say, every writer’s process is unique to that writer. There is no one way in writing for it’s one’s art, one’s perspective on the world. What has helped me clarify my writing process is writing everyday. I like to think it also clarifies my thinking.

    Really fine post. Enjoyed it.


    • Thanks so much, Karen! I am finding that the daily process of writing is doing wonders for my self-understanding and growth, but it’s still very focused on sorting out some of the junk in my head to make space for more creative work. I can feel that creative spark starting to stir again, though, so I’m hoping to have a writing project to use to learn more about my own writing process soon. I know a little from my previous writing efforts, but it’s been long enough now that I think I need to re-discover what works for me in this time and place. I am delighted to hear that the daily writing helped you find your own process, and it encourages me that I am on the right track to discover mine. In the meantime, I’ll just keep writing and learning and growing. Thanks for the encouragement!

  2. I usually write to share, or get something off my chest, and sometimes just to entertain. However, I quite often discover through the act of writing that I don’t really believe what I thought I believed. As I write out my opinions, sometimes they contradict each other, and I’m forced to really dig in and examine myself. Often enough, I realize that I’ve held on to beliefs simply because I have “always” had that belief.

    That’s one thing that I love about my Queries. I’ll ask people questions and say, “Yeah, that’s what I think, too.” But then I’ll find myself agreeing with someone who says the exact opposite of the first person. It’s pretty interesting, and I guess normal, to have all of these conflicting thoughts and opinions inside us.

    • I love the way you describe your process. I know well that feeling of thinking I know what I believe about something only to find (through the writing about it) that maybe it’s not as clear cut as I think. I think it’s valuable to question those beliefs from time to time. Sometimes I come away with my belief strengthened; other times I decide it’s time to shift or expand my beliefs because my current ones no longer serve me. Your Queries sound like a lovely process as well to dig into those conflicting ideas we all hold. Great idea!

  3. Pingback: Writing Again | Story Treasury

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