I have about a gazillion books about writing (some of them I even read), and I probably read almost five gazillion blog posts about writing over the years. I feel like they all mainly talk about writing as a public action rather than a private one. They are primarily geared for writers and sometimes non-writers who have to write a blog post, some kind of marketing piece, or a description of their art project or whatever.
A while ago, I talked about private and public spaces and the things that happen in them. I talked about how writing my morning pages helps me move from reactions to responses. Writing as a public action is writing with an audience in mind. It can be an audience of one (an email to your boss, a letter to your lover). As soon as you’re writing with an audience in mind, the second you think, “Someone might read this someday”, your writing changes. It can be a subtle change, but it’s no longer the same.
Today, I want to talk about writing without an audience in mind. Writing as a proxy for thinking. Sometimes, I write to order my thoughts. And that writing I don’t really expect to be reading later (although I may be). That kind of writing isn’t discussed in writing books, mainly because no one reads it, and if a tree falls in the woods, etc. I think a lot of people don’t even count it as writing.
So, why should anyone want to write something that presumably no one, not even themselves, will ever read?
Writing is a way of ordering our thoughts; at least, that’s how it started for me. I can’t do long division in my brain. I need to write it down. Heck, sometimes even long addition needs to be written down. I have the memory capacity of a goldfish. So, sometimes I write words like that. Because I need to figure out what I think. In these cases, I type. Typing is faster than writing longhand, at least for me.
It’s an act of emptying out my brain onto the computer. While emptying out my brain, I might discover something I didn’t expect. I might figure out a connection I hadn’t noticed before. I might understand how something I thought was of sound logic doesn’t hold water. This writing isn’t about me reading it and then tidying it into a blog post (although sometimes it can happen). It’s writing to straighten out my thoughts and give them a linear direction rather than going round and round in my head like clothes in a washing machine.
I started posting prompts on my blog to aid in this process. To make myself write, once a week, about a theme. To figure out what I thought about this topic that day. I know writers have found them helpful, but non-writers might find them useful, too. Go on, write as if nobody’s reading. You can start here.