Writing to forge ingots of thought
a methodology that works in spite of my chaotic mind
Hello and welcome to the third edition of Subject to Change!
This week I've been unusually energized through writing. You see, I think many things, and I think them strongly. Some thoughts I've had for many years, which I have stubbornly ruminated over and over again, as if chewing the same old thought will reveal new insights.
These thoughts that seemed to take me nowhere... I started getting very bitter about them. I wondered if I'd ever be able to break free of my stale thoughts.
About a year ago, I discovered a phenomenon that can be summarized like this:
Writing is thinking.
Wait. This sounds way too simplistic. I've written a ton in my life, taken lots of lecture notes, research notes, journaling... none of this really helped me think.
It turns out, there's a methodology to follow if you want to write to think. And one way of doing this is what I learned about through taking the Write of Passage course.
In the aftermath of the course, my goal has been to make the lessons my own. To me, the methodology seems similar to mining for ore:
I am going about my day when suddenly I have a thought spark in the crags of my mind. It may have been triggered internally or externally, but I see potential in it. It may be an idea! Let's go!
I rappel down a hole of research where first, I dig wide to explore. Then, I look back and see what I found.
I search with a particular question in mind. This question helps me identify and locate the valuable ores of thought from all the rubble, extract it, and put it in my bag of potential ideas.
It's easy to get caught in the mind-numbing activity of digging endlessly, so you must have a reason to come back to the surface again. For miners, it can be the act of cashing in. For writers, it can be the act of publishing.
I try to verify the value of my finds by asking for a second opinion. They often react to a particular facet of an idea, which is interesting and useful feedback to me.
Then, I take the raw ore and write about the idea, keeping the social feedback in mind, with the intention of sharing it with the world. This is like smelting the ore and creating a tiny ingot of thought.
Over time, I can fuse ingots of thoughts into more elaborate ideas.
Now, not every fleeting thought will lead to an ingot of anything.
But that's not the point. The point is to practice getting better at seeing strong sparks in the crags of your mind and in the world, and knowing what to do with them. Through nothing but a deep personal interest in the world, you can build a small fortune of ideas, one ingot at the time.
(And that's a heck of a lot more appealing than a brain full of stale, imaginary thoughts!)
🐦 Tweet: the nature of innovation
After several conversations touching on the nature of innovation, I decided to write a thread gathering my thoughts on it. The first observation I had was that "Innovation requires pressure". Read on twitter for the rest 👇
📖 Word of the week: trafikant
This Norwegian word means "road user" and is often used as a catch-all for anyone who uses the road. It could be a pedestrian, a cyclist, a driver... anyone making traffic on the road. What I love about this word (and that I miss being able to use in English) is a way to address anyone using the road. The list of road users will keep on fluctuating (pedestrian, cyclist, scooter, driver) but a "trafikant" makes it easy to capture any and all road users, no matter what mode of travel they're using.
💡 From elsewhere: Devon Zuegel on the North Star Podcast by David Perell
I've listened to this podcast episode so many times, and brought it up in conversation even more times. Truth be told, I think I have a full-on girl crush on Devon Zuegel. She's super smart: works in tech and is incredibly curious and knowledgeable about cities and spatial design. Every time I re-listen to the podcast, I feel I'm putting on a pair of glasses that enable you to see the world in ways you've never seen before. If you like the intersection of human behaviour, governance, cities, thinking, and living the optimal life, you must give this a go. Listen through Spotify, or find it through your favourite podcast app.
⚓️ Quote from book I'm reading
A Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander
We're finally getting into the "pattern" part of the book!
The patterns from 1 to 253 are presented in order of large scale to the small scale. The first pattern of 253 is called "Independent Regions", and the quote on the chapter cover is:
Do what you can to establish a world government, with a thousand independent regions, instead of countries;...
This is an interesting statement. It speaks to the benefits of smaller, more independent regions such as city states or small countries. The pitch towards independent regions was also supported by Devon Zuegel in the podcast interview. She spoke about Singapore, arguably the most successful totalitarian nation in the world. (BTW here’s a really good explainer video on the governance of Singapore by PolyMatter) There's a party that has been in power for decades, and this stability combined with the optimal size of 5.9 million in population allows the nation to govern effectively. One example she talks about is the ease at which they were able to roll out a national digital ID to all their citizens within a couple of years. Norway (pop. 5.4 million) has had a similar system in place for years, called MinID. This kind of integration between agencies and roll-out is still a dream/nightmare to consider for many larger countries like Canada and the U.S. to even consider.
Was there anything from this newsletter that made your mind jog? I’d love to hear what it was! Hit reply or share your thoughts in the comments section 👇
Thanks for reading and until next week,
Stay safe and stay curious ⛏
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