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Why do I write the things that I write? [Jan. 22nd, 2013|03:58 pm]
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When I write on a subject at length I've usually got at least a few reasons for doing so. Some of those reasons also dictate that I share the writing, and some of them also lead to my engaging in discussion on the subject of the writing, both in public or with individuals. Often there are one or more potential or apparent goals that are NOT the reason I'm writing something, and I try to make that explicit when I think it is unclear. This particular writing is meant to comprehensively answer the question "Why did you write/publish X if your goal wasn't Z?".

I write things because the act of writing it helps me organize my thoughts. This is a reason many people keep a diary or a journal. By putting all of the concepts down in the same place at the same time I can establish connections, find contradictions, and prioritize ideas. Converting a thought into words often crystalizes previously vague details that can lead to new realizations. Sometimes this form of writing serves as an outline for some larger work at a later date, which I'd be writing for additional reasons.

I write things because I want to be able to re-visit my current mental space from some point in the future. I can read things today that I wrote 2-3
years ago and see how my opinions and viewpoints have changed since then. I can determine if my behavior has been consistent, and whether or not I made mistakes. I can check that I've met goals that I set for myself, or adhered to promises that I made. This is another reason that lines up with a diary.

I write things because I want other people to understand how my mind works. I want to be predictable, especially in controversial and/or interpersonal situations. This serves a lot of purposes. It allows people to expect my response without having to approach me about sensitive topics. It allows people to avoid dealing with me without needing to first discover face-to-face that we have incompatible views on something that is important to them. It allows people to seek me out if they discover we have compatible views on topics that might not come up otherwise. I consider all of these to be positive outcomes, and have encountered all of them in practice often enough to consider them reliable. When someone gets mad at me for something I wrote, that's not a negative outcome, because they would have been MORE mad to have had the same thing said to their face later.

I write things because I want to find out what other people think about a particular issue. If their thoughts are consistent with their actions, I like to have that knowledge so that I can better meet their expectations. If they contradict themselves in words, or if their words are inconsistent with their actions, that's useful information for me to have as well, so that I know what value to place on their words about this and other topics. There are many social situations where many people recognize that there is some line between "right" and "wrong", but too few people realize that everyone draws that line in a different place. I am capable of drawing the line by myself, but I am often willing to adjust my behavior to match a position of the line slightly more in keeping with some or many of my peers. I am much more often willing to adjust my behavior when I discover that some information I used to make my original assessment is inaccurate. Unfortunately, this sort of writing is where I most often encounter social stigmas. That is, the concept that talking about something is bad, and may even be more bad than the thing in question which, itself, may be verbally and/or practically acceptable according to many of the people involved in the conversation. Fortunately, in my experience, the benefits of the former reason outweigh the drawbacks of this one more often than not.

I write things because I want to convince other people that their position is flawed. This sort of writing usually comes after I've gathered opinions and behaviors in some way previously, possibly through other writing and discussion, possibly through observation. Occasionally I will begin from principles and argue to a conclusion, however this approach is more prone to mistakes of ignorance on my part. Much more often I am attempting to point out dissonance or contradiction already evident in another person, where a person says or believes or does one thing that is incompatible with something else that the same person says or believes or does (killing people is bad. capital punishment is good. <-- contradiction, albeit one that is more easily accounted for than most). This is, unfortunately, where I most often encounter people who have a poor grasp of how their own minds work, and who also happen to be unpracticed in rational discussion. When I write "A", and you agree with me about "A", and then I write "B because A" and "C because B" and "D because C", it is entirely unhelpful for you to say "D is wrong" without having something to say about B or C or the links between them. We obviously disagree about C or C->D, and maybe about B or A->B or B->A, but until we figure out which item or step our disagreement begins at any discussion about D is wasted.

I hope that this has helped illustrate my motivation behind writing and posting all of the things that I do. I am, as always, open to feedback on this subject. Things people say to me about this probably won't make me stop writing, but you could conceivably convince me to write or publish less often or publicly, or to word things differently if not deceitfully. I also hope that some of these motivations may inspire others to discuss things more openly and publicly more often, as well.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: 42itous
2013-01-22 09:29 pm (UTC)

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Ooh, very meta!

I find that I write partly to enlighten other people (I write about myself to enlighten the people who have a need to understand me) but also because it helps me understand myself better, and often I learn things I hadn't previously known about myself.
[User Picture]From: thebigpants
2013-01-24 04:27 am (UTC)

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Keep writing as you do. Your journal, your life, your choices, others can leave if they can't handle differing perspectives.