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How to Know What You’re Thinking By Reading What You Write

by Shlomo Maital

     On April 20, 2008, some 12 years ago, I wrote my first blog. Its title was . Innovation in the Black Inkiness of Solitary Confinement: How Bernie Mathews Survived for Two Years. It was about an Australian convict, kept in solitary confinement for a very long time, who preserved his sanity by inventing a game with a pebble.

     Since that first blog, I’ve written and posted 1,723 more blogs. The latest was posted yesterday — about how poor African nations figured out how to do COVID-19 testing efficiently, to save money.   I’ve written a blog, nearly every day, rising early at 5 am, and spilling out ideas that brewed at night, mostly, I think, in my subconscious.

       Some people read my blog – but not that many. So – what’s the point? What has kept me at this blah-blah-blah for 12 years – and probably, for another 12, or until I cash in my chips for good?

       Here is what I figured out.

      Let’s start with a question: what is thought?

       Here is how psychologists define thought:   “Thought (also called thinking) – the mental process in which beings form psychological associations and models of the world. … Thought, the act of thinking, produces thoughts. A thought may be an idea, an image, a sound or even an emotional feeling that arises from the brain.”

     In other words, thoughts are generally pretty fuzzy – even an “emotional feeling”.

     So, how do you know what you are thinking?

       Dumb question. Of course you know what you are thinking. Because, well – you are thinking it.

       But, let’s dig deeper. Thoughts are usually quite blurry, amorphous. Images, sounds, scraps of ideas. I believe that our thoughts are not truly real, until we capture them in words.   If you want your thoughts to create value in the world, to inspire or inform or amuse other people, you need to capture them in words, because that is how we communicate, with words.

       So, while it took me years to understand this – I now know why I write blogs. I write them, in order to answer a question. The question is: What am I thinking? Because – I won’t know what I am thinking, really, until I read what I write.

       That that seems to be the real reason why I have written 1,723 blogs.  

       But there is another reason.  Habit.

       Do something constructive, something good, one time, that’s nice. Do it again and again, that’s much better. Make it into a habit – and you do it regularly, nearly without thinking.

       I have a habit of writing a blog almost daily. That means, my brain is constantly on alert. Find me ideas that excite me, interest me, amaze me. So my brain has become a scanner, permanently, even when I am not consciously aware of it.   I have scissors at hand, and clip articles from newspapers, probably annoying my wife, who wonders what in the world was in that hole in the New York Times? Lately, I’ve cured that bad habit and simply look up the article in question online.

       And, one more reason for writing blogs. I often write about subjects that I have no clue about. Mostly from science and technology. As a retired economics professor, this borders on (or crosses the border into – charlatanism. How can I write about CRISP-R technology in gene splicing, without a biology Ph.D.?   Well, I can. So — I write about things in order to understand them. Because if I cannot write about them clearly, then I do not understand them. So, converting thinking into words is an exercise in learning new things constantly.   I’m 77 years old, soon to be 78.   I’m keenly aware that human brains are ‘neuroplastic’ (I’ve written blogs about that too), they are amazingly flexible, but – brains do grow old, and I think it is important to keep exercising my brain, just as I exercise my legs and biceps and tummy muscles. Some people do sudoku. Others do crossword puzzles. I write blogs. To each his own.

     So – what will I write this morning? I guess – this can become a blog, about why I write blogs. I wonder if anybody will find it of interest. But the truth is – it doesn’t really matter. Because – I am writing it to read and understand why I write blogs. And I think I know now.