Writing and Capturing New Ideas

Thursday, 18th January 2018

I imagine, as I work on the current book, some point in the future in which what I think is put on the page immediately, ready for me to edit, move around, and the rest of it. Ideas just flit through my field of vision, and I fantasize that if I had such direct mind-to-page interface, I’d be able to capture all those things that seem so great as they fly by. (Wait, isn’t that exactly what Facebook already is? No…not yet).

And then I think, would that be a good world? I mean, everyone would be able to do that, not just me. If we think we have loads of text now, much of which consists of hot takes, half-baked ideas, reactions, and all the rest, what would that look like? But my ideas are better, right? Well, no, not really.

I remember an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, in which the kids of the Enterprise were taken away by this planet of highly advanced people. They couldn’t have kids themselves, so they thought they’d just take the ones that came by. They’d treat them well, of course. Treating them well meant, in part, aiding their mental development. So, for this one kid, they gave him a tool that would allow him to sculpt whatever he could think of. I think the first thing he sculpted was a totally stereotypical dolphin (it was the 80s).

That scene always annoyed me. So the kid could make material whatever was floating around in his head. Great. So, where is he going to get his ideas from? Clearly not struggling with material that didn’t do what he wanted it to. Clearly not reading more and more, thinking, what exactly am I trying to say in this book?

So, this goes back to Hegel, and through Heidegger and lots of others. The material world matters. We don’t just come up with ideas first, and then “make it so”, to quote Jean-Luc Picard.

And yet, I keep thinking that I want a stenographer. No, audio capture (i.e., Dragon Naturally Speaking and its ilk) won’t do. I’m trying to capture meanings and ideas, not just words. Aren’t we all?

Believe it or not, writing these little things on Facebook is part of the process of allowing things to solidify enough to be able to be written down. Sometimes it is working out an idea, even quite obliquely (no one would ever be able to trace the good that a quick post made in actual writing). Sometimes it is a matter of taking a break to let something percolate, but keeping the typing fingers active. Sometimes it is the hope of a comment or discussion that spurs things along further (although, many people I follow have far better luck at that than I do).

Ok, back to African philosophy.

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