Never tell you thoughts to other people because they’ll talk you out of writing them down.

Never tell you thoughts to other people because they’ll talk you out of writing them down.

This title is clickbait, but it’s also true. I’ll explain why, but first:

Setting the scene:

If there’s anything that I have learned in my young life, it’s that being bored makes you creative. Being surrounded by noise that’s just loud enough so you can’t talk and being surrounded by people you don’t want to talk to in the first place is a great fermenter of big, creative ideas.

i. high school

Until recently I thought that high school was the last great place for my writing self. The isolation and boredom in my rural school were unprecedented and so I thought they would not be replicable in my adult world.

I figured that in the real (and real fortunate) world, you’re either too interested in life or too busy to have the same need to write. That jitteriness and excitement that comes from writing something down and having the next 8 words lined up just doesn’t arise; your thoughts stay in your head.

ii. a tech conference

I’m so pleased that high school isn’t the last fermenter of big ideas in my life — a tech conference does the trick just the same.

Last year I went to one, and in a dark, humid moment, in the stillness and quietness of some guy talking about building a database from scratch in erling, my brain began to pour out with ideas and words.

The first thing that came to my mind was that this was the first time in a long time that I’d felt like writing. Directly after that, I realised that I don’t have anything written down about my life right now because I’m never forced to be quiet and still.

At work and in the rest of my life, I am always free talk about my thoughts the moment I think of them. And so I tell other people and then it feels like my thoughts are stuck to something. It might not be paper (or the paper-looking white rectangle that I write to on my computer), but they’re there written down in people’s brains and that seems to be good enough.

Unfortunately all of those people who have my thoughts written in their brains are all over the world and I’m left not remembering any of them myself. And it’s not only sad because I don’t remember my thoughts, but it’s also bad because I no longer remember the severity of them. In chatting with me, my friends and colleagues develop my ideas away from their original form.

Example Scenario:

You have an A-ha! moment and all of a sudden your world is on fire. Right now, this is what your thought looks like on a nicely laid out Severity of thought line chart:

It’s pretty severe. But then you chat with a friend, and the severity of your thought goes down. Maybe they told you an alternative narrative that made you believe a bit less in your thought. Maybe they told you their sister was a doctor and she didn’t believe in your thought. Maybe they just shrugged. Either way, your thought has lost severity:

Over time, the severity of your thought kind of levels out. Whatever your initial thought was gets replaced by this new, less severe thought:

It stops becoming a thought and transforms into a well thought out opinion (you hope). It becomes your common knowledge.

At this point you wonder: if you were even going to write about this thought, what would you write about? This is something you have always known — what’s so special about that?

So you don’t write it down. Your opinion wavers a bit over time, but your thoughts about the topic are not nearly as interesting as whatever it was that you first thought the moment you felt your world changed. You’re in a more educated, unexciting reality, which is beautiful in it’s own right, but doesn’t give you the energy to plot your world down in words and line charts.

iii. conclusion

Unfortunately, when we let our thoughts level out without writing them down, we forget the original thoughts that shape us. We think that we’ve always thought a certain way: the last way, the way we think now. We forget what brought us here to these final and settled thoughts: that first rush. And in forgetting about the rush, we forget that everyone has to learn in their life in exactly the same way, no matter how old they are when they start to learn it. Thought for other people is as winding as our own.

The A-ha! moments that I’m having now will undoubtedly be boring and normal by this time next year. But I’ve decided to keep all my new thoughts a secret until I write them down. I want them away from my friends and confidants who make me smarter and take my thought from exciting but unfounded to grounded and full, so that I have a record of me that’s severe and naive through my entire life, not only full of high school extremes but also ridiculous business ideas and every new philosophy on writing.