< Back
Nov 15, 2018

3. To know what you think, write it down

To know what you think, write it down. Forcing myself to write something down, to structure it, to let it see light is the best way for me to clarify what I actually think about something.

Well, here we are.

I've always found this to be true. And I've left a paper trail of concerns and fears and quibbles and anxieties behind me to prove it. I started keeping a journal in 2005 and I've been reasonably faithful about keeping it going ever since.

I say reasonably. There are large gaps in the journal all over the place. The first solid one runs from 2005-2007, and then one later in 2008, and then a handful of untidy scraps throughout university, when I could be torn away from whatever paper I was writing to jot down whatever I was thinking.

University wasn't a particularly self-critical time, however. I don't have a lot saved from there. I know that old papers must be knocking about on a hard drive around here somewhere, but for the life of me I can't find them. Not that I've looked.

But the uni stuff is scarce. I regret that.

When I first went to Japan, the writing came easily. Before I left, I had attended a pre-departure meeting in Montreal, along with some other people my age who had been accepted by the JET Programme. One of the alumni there, when prompted, told me that "everything you have heard about Japan is true." This informed the name of the blog that I kept, weekly, for the first year or so; and then at intervals throughout the second year.

This was probably my most prolific writing period. I had just finished rereading Infinite Jest and I thought that I was DFW and I think that's pretty clear in some of the posts that I wrote. I think I got a little poetic on some of the entries about climbing mountains, but I'm generally unashamed of that body of work. I've been meaning to download it and compile it into something that I can browse.

And but of course it was my most prolific. In university everything was technicolor and adult, but not fundamentally dissimilar to anything that came before. I would go weeks eating only Pop-Tarts and chips, but they were the same Pop-Tarts and chips that I would eat back home. University turned up the dial on what I knew, but didn't offer me anything different. And maybe that's why I didn't write as much.

Japan was a different story, though. Not only was the environment different, but I developed a sudden and passionate interest in athletics and nature, which were both worlds that I had barely known existed. I wrote about running a 5k as if it were my own personal Everest, and I recounted hiking Meakan-dake like it was a personal interview with God. And at the time, it was.

It's a great snapshot of how I thought back then. Of what I saw and what I thought was important. The people that I knew. I don't know who I was writing it for. Sometime in the first year, a girl that I knew from university but whom I hadn't spoken to in years commented on my Facebook that my blog was excellent. It really made my week. I posted links to my blog posts on Facebook back then.

I don't write as much anymore. I wish that wasn't the case. I feel like I've lost sense of my voice as a writer. I feel like not writing has made me less of a critical person. I feel my beliefs going unchallenged. When this truth exposes itself to me, I'm chagrined, but not ashamed or anything.

But whoever wrote this list really wasn't kidding around when they said that writing down what you think is the best way of knowing what you think. And this distance from what I think is maybe one of the things that I'm more concerned with, now that life is basically going my way. Now that my basic needs are met—now that I'm sleeping 8 hours every night and I'm eating regularly and excessively and I'm doing well at the gym and my boss is happy with the work I do (I think)—the distance from the nitty-gritty of what I think is what concerns me. Being unchallenged in my beliefs and coasting along with what I know.

At least now I know what I think about that.