Why Write?

“We live in our minds and existence is the attempt to bring that life into physical reality, to state it in gesture and in form.”

Ayn Rand  The Fountainhead


I’ve always thought the “P” (Purpose) of SOAP (Subject, Occasion, Audience, Purpose) was most the important part. So it is appropriate that my first blog post explains why I’m writing. Why am I bothering to have a blog page on my website?

The answer is to struggle with and clarify my own thinking. Which, incidentally, is why I have my students write so much. Writing is your thoughts made manifest outside yourself. It is your thoughts worked out, cleaned up, essentialized, and made convincing. After writing your thinking should be clearer, purer, better integrated,  more convincing (to yourself and others), and more in sync with reality.

So while these blog posts are in the form of a communication to a  reader, my fundamental point in writing (and in assigning writing to my students) is not communication. It is thinking/reasoning. Of course, I’m making a slightly artificial distinction between two things (communicating and thinking) that hopefully are integrated. As Isocrates says in his Antidosis “the same arguments we use in persuading others when we speak in public, we employ also when we deliberate in our own thoughts.”

So then, the writing here is still about communication to a degree. After all, I could just write thoughts in a private notebook. But knowing that the thoughts might be read (by others or by my later self), putting the thoughts out into the world, prompts me (or any writer) psychologically to make sure the thinking is refined and clear.

An analogy is working on a piece of music. I’m not a huge fan of performing, but if I want to ever learn a piece of music especially well and enjoy all that comes with that accomplishment (the feeling of being a “pianist,” the feeling of owning a piece of music, the feeling of close communication with a favorite composer by studying his mind’s product), I need to make myself perform it. I need to present my thinking and work on the piece to the world. Otherwise, that last bit of polish, that last five percent of work at the end (which is ninety percent of the project) will never happen.

So this will be a place to work out and clarify thoughts and to get them out into the world. For surely the world is a better place if people work to get more clear thoughts out into the world.

“Right thinking is the first principle and source of writing”

Vico (quoting Horace)