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January 13th, 2022
Often I go to the Tinkered Thinking archives and search a title that I have in mind because, frankly, I don’t know if I’ve written about it already. But even if another entry of the same name does exist, it wouldn’t matter all that much. It’s possible to write on the same subject every single day and come up with a slightly different take on it every single time.
This is an unappreciated virtue of forgetting. If you made up your mind on a subject and remembered this stance verbatim, where would there be room left over for you to shift and slide into a slightly new position?
Superior argument? Better evidence? If only. Most, if not all of us are nearly impervious to superior arguments and better evidence. There is always a slight-of-hand to be played with language by way of the emotion we operate on. Logic and rationality are held to high regard by many, but the practicality of these tools is vanishingly small compared to the enormous juggernaught of emotion that infuses and pervades all aspects of our lives.
People are never swayed by cogent arguments and tidy evidence - few have the patience, let alone the time for such tedium. It is always a new step in the dance of emotion that changes opinion, perspective and ultimately: behavior.
Already here, the question has veered from what to write about to what sways people - or doesn’t sway them. In a pleasant way, the latter answers the former. The question has come this way quite often: how do you write so much? How do you think of new ‘content’?
The answer is that a rough draft is nothing more than a torrent of whim and fancy, directed by that fickle navigator: emotion. New writers are often so focused on the question of what to write about that they forgo the question completely - a kind of vicious cycle that is always eating itself to be digested into smaller pieces to be eaten until there is nothing left except a yawning sense of nothing, which easily gives way to a sense of failure.
But in such a situation, the same thing is happening: emotion is simply running it’s course, and when it turns its machinations to self-obsession, the result usually spirals into some kind of self-annihilation. Depression is often characterized with an inward focus on one’s self, and relief from such heavy symptoms often comes when a person figures out that it’s possible to concentrate and focus on things other than the self.
What to write about, is simply a terrible question that should never be asked. Instead of asking it, the best course of action is to simply get words on the page, no matter how garbled or nonsensical they are. The rhythm is quickly found, and what may have started off like a wobbling toddler soon begins to look like a seasoned marathon runner in the final mile toward victory. The blessing of the written word - unlike the spoken, is that our early and embarrassing turn of phrase can be scratched out, and replaced with something more befitting the rest of the puzzle piece we aim to contribute to the chorus of human thought.
It’s never a question of what to write, but when we will start writing. The rest is a story to be discovered as you create it.