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I think in sessions. I start writing in a notebook, or tweeting, and I know I have a bit of time — 5–30 minutes — to come up with a realization that will stick to me. Or at least a new direction for future thoughts. The process of thinking has to have a tangible result.
If I feel like I'm not going to come up with anything, I just stop and switch to something else. Twitter threads are good for this. You can come back to them whenever you want.
If I have spent half an hour rehashing a bunch of past thoughts, I know it doesn't amount to anything by itself — I still need to come up with something new. I have prepared myself for changing something in me, sure, but all this preparation is for nothing if I don't follow up with "advancing the state of myself".
Sometimes the result of a thinking session is that I rediscover an insight I already came up with before. It's alright. Maybe this time it will combine with other thoughts and lead to different consequences. Sometimes an idea's time is not right.
I don't revisit my thoughts. When I write them down, it's because I want to internalize them.
I write in notebooks, and leave them behind.
I write posts. I talk to people. It's especially useful to tell thoughts to other people — better than writing in a notebook. The only reason I don't put literally everything on Twitter is that different places (notebooks, note-taking apps, Twitter) and ways of writing (handwriting, a bullet list, a Twitter thread) lead to different results.
I obsessively make highlights in books (with Apple Books) and on webpages (with hypothes.is), but I don't reread them.
Here are example highlights from Robert Bly's A Little Book on the Human Shadow. I don't choose true things to highlight, or interesting things, or things I want to return to. I just highlight everything that even slightly grabs my attention. For any reason.
A funny word? Highlight it. I didn't know something? Highlight it. Something is in line with what I'm currently thinking about? Highlight it.
I don't color-code highlights, and I very rarely accompany them with notes (although sometimes it's good).
There's an idea going around — that you're supposed to have insightful conversations. Talking to somebody cool; being fascinated with their worldview; absorbing their wisdom and experience.
Bullshit. For me, all the thinking happens either after the conversation, or, if I'm on Twitter — in the pauses.
If my mouth is open, I'm not thinking. I'm either telling you what I have come up with before, or bullshitting to win the argument.
Sometimes I do absorb people's wisdom — if they sound cool I will just take what they say, uncritically, and parrot it until somebody actually argues with me, at which point I will probably lose the argument and feel bitter.
I don't think when writing posts. Same as with talking. I might internalize something while writing a post, but that's it.
If I argue with somebody, the only way I can ever think of anything useful is if I block them first.
I might even admit they are right, afterwards, but only after the threat is gone and I'm not in defense mode anymore.
This is why my arguments with my dad were so useless, over the years. As long as I lived with him, I couldn't freely admit he was right.
If I am not writing, tweeting, or talking, I am probably either observing my own life, or getting lost in a bunch of internal conflicts ("I want X but also Y", "I am scared of Z"). I can spend days not coming up with anything. To advance myself, I need to either go through a thinking session — or do something and observe how the thoughts I've had before relate to what I'm doing.
E.g. if I was thinking "I should play more" for the last few days and then I played a bit and it was great, I will remember: "okay, my thoughts about play were totally right and that's the direction I should think in".
I like having different places for different things — several blogs, Twitter accounts, note-taking apps. It's easier to stay on topic when I know that a place is for some topic.
For instance, I have a site: "Freedom and agency". As long as this site exists and is officially "a thing I'm doing", I will try to connect my thoughts to this topic. "Maybe I'll be able to write a post on this", and in the process the post becomes closer to the topic, because I know I can't write just any shit I want. Each thought-bucket I create serves as an attractor. By creating different buckets, I can control the direction in which I think.
Note: the same happens with posts, sometimes. I know what this post is about, so while writing it I come up with new things I can add to the post. Guess I was wrong that I don't think when I write posts.
Another tangible result of a thinking session: an example. By coming up with an example for X, you also change your outlook on the example itself. Now you know it's about X.
^ This is an example of itself. I have noticed that "an example" is an example of a result of a thinking session. Now I feel a bit differently about examples — specifically, I know that producing them is going to be useful not just for my readers, but also for myself.
^ Note: I knew the thing in yellow before I typed it down. I even said it mentally before I typed it down. But I still have to type it down because otherwise I'm bound to forget it.
Just as it's useful to turn your own attention to things that you "know", it's also useful to turn your attention to other things. E.g. things that you want.
Say "I want" for every thing that you want. Amplify the feeling of wanting things. Train yourself to notice it. Feelings like "I like" are trainable as well.