A recent post by Ken Stewart, entitled Why Do You Write? prompted me to write my usual post-type comment.
Writing does three things for me:
1- It helps me organise my thoughts
When I think, I usually have two or three thought-threads running through my mind. Sometimes more. Sometimes they get mixed together, not so that I'm confused necessarily, for I can cope with that.
It is more of a prioritisation, for I find it difficult to prioritise competing thoughts that are nevertheless parallel on a topic. The thought-threads become less tangled when I write them and edit what I write.
2- Prioritising my thoughts sparks further thought
By prioritising my thoughts in a visual way I engage other ideas and thoughts that are in the background. Some are as if they were in the subconscious, others vague and indistinct come into sharper focus.
There are many parts of the brain that lie unused or that are used almost exclusively for specialist jobs, such as the visual cortex to do with sight and parts to do with processing hearing. Studies have shown that blind people use the visual cortex despite not being able to see.
Is it possible that sighted people can use this 'visionary' and sophisticated part of the brain for other purposes than processing visual responses from the retina? Perhaps the visual cortex is invoked, not necessarily in just processing visual responses, when a person sees their thoughts in a written, visual form. Who knows? But when my background thought-threads are written down, I can list them alongside more conscious thought-threads.
3- Writing puts to rest serendipitous thought-threads
There is an old saying “sometimes I sits and thinks, and sometimes I just sits”. I find it difficult to do the latter for thought processes take over when I try to just sit. Some of these go on in the background of my mind all the time. The psychologists tell us that this is normal.
When I become conscious of these thought-threads, I try to make sense of them. Writing helps me do this, for it does 1- and 2- above. When these are processed through exhaustive cycles of writing and editing, it is as if the thoughts are put to rest. I can sleep on them.
The famous and ancient poet John Donne wrote:
. . . he tames it, that fetters it in verse.
Could it be that the sentiment behind Donne's line is what this last point is all about?