“The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe.”
― Gustave Flaubert
After I finished writing yesterday’s post, inspired by the question of whether I wanted more commentors or more readers, this Gustave Flaubert quote crossed my path. Not for the first time, I realized that I blog to discover what I believe.
I used to think people who wrote journals must use them in some way to clarify for themselves what they believe. And maybe they do. I have never found that I know what to do with a private journal other than dump all my mental tape loops onto paper in the hope of finding a way out of circular thinking.
But blogging is different.
Because blogging is public.
The process of transforming an initial impulse to write about a topic into a blog post requires me to clarify my thoughts. My internal prompt is often a gut feeling or an emotional response to something. Emotions are not skilled with words. To translate a physical emotional response into a form an audience can read, I need to use words. Recruiting my internal editor as a collaborator, I can craft writing that came from my heart but is sensible to my mind. As I edit, I clarify the ideas for myself and my readers at the same time. Blogging about my questions allows me to bring theory and experience together, letting my heart and mind work together to show me what they have taught me.
Once I have published a post, comments often lead me to further reflection. Comments can point out flaws in my argument, exceptions I hadn’t considered, alternate approaches, or related ideas. I have been known to change my mind or refine my understanding in response to insightful comments.
I learn the most from the comments that make me defensive. Because the web is a permanent public forum, responding from the depths of negative emotion can be dangerous, leading to regrettable words on the page that can’t be disowned. Taking the time to formulate a response that gets past the initial emotion forces me to confront the source of the emotion, leading to greater self-awareness.
In order for blogging to be a deep tool for self-discovery, I write about the things that confuse me, the places I am growing, the things that matter to me. This blog has become focused on perennial interests of mine: art, creativity, play, and meaning-making. Of all the art and creative play I engage in, my writing is the media in which I feel I have the furthest to grow, so writing is the primary art I blog about. If I ever reach a point where I am satisfied with my writing, I am sure there will be a new creative endeavour that I struggle with, and I will probably write about that. But for now, writing is the sweet spot, the growing edge, the place of potential.
Do you write to find out what you believe? If so, do you find it more effective to write for your eyes only or publicly?