Once I wrote a lot. I also read a lot and thought even more. But most importantly, I wrote. It made my thinking clearer, helped me focus on explicit points and how to properly express them. The writing wasn’t primarily for the purpose of being read nor for the writing itself. It was constructive and it shaped my ability to analyse. While I’m still reading and thinking, I stopped writing. As I realised, instead of analysing regularly what I come across, I’m back in the cave staring at my own shadow. Something must have gone wrong.
Approaching Texts, Starting to Write
Like most people who write, I learned by doing: from scribbling and jotting in a notebook to more structured thoughts, investigative essays, and a thesis paper with precision. Somewhat ten years ago it must have been that I started scrutinising how others developed their texts, dividing thought-provoking from boring and revealing from deluding, only to start the tedious process of producing texts on my own. There are cart boxes of notebooks in the basement, all filled with endless attempts and little improvements; the language often sentimental or overly precise, only slowly turning into something close to an own style. The internet is also full of trials, this public archive: blogs on literature and music and journeys. And in addition, there are the experiments with writing for money. Writing about topics I loathe or don’t consider engaging for even a handful of people. That didn’t matter, though, I’ve become more and more professional, writing a handy tool.
But with precision in using words and being praised for it, I lost focus. The tool became both sacred and futile – whenever I wanted to write, I had to justify this with a deeper purpose, thus making the precious tool useless. The process of justifying a text prevented me from any analysis instead of enabling it. I requested relevance when I wanted to write. Who’d want to read that? Who am I even to talk about this? And am I actually skilled enough to publish at all? My notebooks faded into obsolescence, only comprising To-do-lists and notes from phone calls (plus the small drawings from when the call gets boring). Somehow, even my eagerness to draft ideas was prevented by the toxic habit of chiding myself for such naïve concept. Paralysed by the awe of not having a purpose, I stopped writing completely.
Reasoning, Writing, and Return
Well, that’s not bad per se, one can say. I’m not living of writing; no one is depending on it. I don’t have something to prove nor an audience to serve. Yet, I kind of live of thinking, of understanding and analysing. The scholarships that paid my student life were awarded on the basis of my reasoning and I always felt that my writing brought me there. Moreover, my work as a consultant requires a rational approach. Though, it must be noted, it does not depend so much on integrity in reasoning as academia does. Most of the discussions in management, especially higher management, are based on convincing but somewhat shallow rather than properly reasoning arguments. Satisfying is king in this domain, while an in-depth analysis is primarily inefficient. (This is quite sad but a systematic failure of another kind.)
However, where I actually realised the most that my thinking was losing the edge was in my ability to express myself in discussions in private spheres: disputes with friends, non-job-related conference participations, and the many discussions about the contents that actually matter to me. I lost my ability to prove a point, was inclined to fall for empty arguments, and couldn’t construct a straightforward narrative that leads to a credible argument. Even when I had to write essays for applications – as I later on came to realise – I expressed myself indecisively, imprecise, and the texts wouldn’t stand a chance of being defended intellectually. Either my judgement or my ability had changed – for my own narrative: I’m sure it’s due to me not writing regularly anymore.
The Cheap and the Normative
In case it wasn’t? Well, who knows. Here I am writing again, it shaped me, so it can’t have been for nothing. While I may still suffer from the insecurity of not being relevant, or fail to pinpoint the purpose of the medium, not writing at all means immediate obsolescence. I welcome the struggle. And in the end, writing does not need any purpose as long as it enables to look beyond the cheap and the normative. That shall be enough, if not, what’s the point? The universe is expanding!