Reflections on Writing

I haven’t been keeping up my practice writing posts, though I do plan to get back to them soon, because I’ve been busy with a lot of other projects and it doesn’t make sense to spend too much time on deliberate practice when you are already spending pretty much 100% of your creative effort on the real deal. Of course, practice helps keep people sharp, but I have been pushing myself to my limits with the work that I’ve been doing for my degree and for some game competitions that I’ve been working on, so believe me when I say that I have indeed been keeping sharp.

One of the things that I’ve been thinking about is that writing really does have to have a purpose going into it. I’ve been more proactive in that when I do my game designing than when I do my fiction writing. My non-fiction writing also tends to be a little hit-or-miss, largely because it springs from my thoughts off the cuff and I don’t always plan a whole lot of what I write ahead of time.

The realization that I’ve had recently is that writing isn’t just something with two levels of purpose like I’ve often considered it to be. Let me explain that, since it’s not necessarily clear.

When I used to teach students to write, I would explain to them that every piece has a purpose, and that within in each piece one could delve deeper so that each individual part has a purpose. In the past twelve months, I’ve been doing freelance writing, work on my own games, and work for my degree, and I’ve come to a conclusion that there’s a level deeper that one can go. Perhaps saying deeper is not even correct; it is above all the others.

What I have come to understand is that everything that I have written is moving me toward a greater direction. That’s not always immediately apparent, if for no other reason than the fact that my work is so diverse, but one of the things that I have realized is that while much my writing doesn’t get much attention it nonetheless has the function of making some parts of my identity permanent.

I don’t know what the best way to put this into words is, but I think that it could be said that writing lets us choose who we are. I used to write reflections on aphorisms, and one of the things I remember from doing that is that I felt like I learned more about who I was as a person and who I wanted to be as a person.

I’ve always tried to be very careful about what I put into writing. I don’t know if I can say that it was common sense, instinct, or just something I should thank my parents for. However, looking back all these years later–which may falsely imply something about my age–I think there’s a wisdom to it.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that my writing is perfect. I think one part of myself that developed very early was my inner critic, and I have no delusions of being the best writer around. However, I can say that I find satisfaction in knowing that all else aside I have occasionally written things that are worth reading.

I think the lesson that I’ve been trying to learn is that every little piece comes together to form a whole, and one of the powers of writing is that when you make a whole out of your work you can turn yourself into something in a way that isn’t easy.

There’s something to be said about the power of the word to deceive, I think it’s important to be cautious about that both as a writer and as a human with a vested interest in getting things right. However, words also have the power to be a creation of themselves.

I’ve been thinking about what makes humans different from any other animal. It’s a classic philosophical debate, and one with incalculably many answers. There are of course famous arguments like the definition of human as a featherless biped, but on a more serious note the defining factor of humanity seems to be humankind represents the divine animal.

Of course there’s religious connotations with the terminology that I’ve used, I’m not one hundred percent in love with the term divine because we can have a number of different meanings. From religious context, I picture it from the perspective of the story in Genesis where man is described as being created in the image of God. Of course, being an animal a human is naturally quite different from God, but the defining difference comes from being in the image of God.

I think that the distinction if you wanted to remove the religious baggage from the terminology and look at it from a strictly empirical perspective is that humans plan. And that in and of itself is not perfect; there are certainly animals that behave differently in different seasons, in different times, and in different circumstances. However, I do believe that there is some unique element to the combination of various factors that people exhibit.

For a start, we certainly check all the boxes that we associate with high-performing intellect in any other animal, and many of those animals have only partial access to what we would consider to be the higher-order cognitive functions. There is also the matter there of limitations and how we assess intellect, which is to say that things can appear smart when no real intelligence is being used, and intelligence can go without being noticed.

However, I think this is where the salient point about writing as a way to shape ourselves comes in. We’ve never really seen any other creature that can use language the way we do; the different creatures that have some ability to communicate don’t seem to have the same structure of mind that we can find evidence of within ourselves. We seem to be the only creatures capable of using advanced reasoning in terms of logic, and we go from shaping our environment to shaping our universe both with the tools of ideology and belief and with the tools of science.

Of course, there is a certain hubris and pretending that my own personal proclivity toward writing leads me toward some supreme perfection, but I think I can stand by the assertion that it has improved who I am as an individual.

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