Writing is just living. Trying to do what I can to love others. Its success, if it can be called that, is not in how many people respond well to it. Its success is the same as asking “Is it a successful life?” And what is a successful life but a good life, and a good life but one that comes from the life giver, from God? One that lives for God and for others? That is a good life. And thus, that is good writing. To write for God and others. To write with them.
How should I edit my Learning By Keyboard documents prior to posting them?
The temptation is to appear to know all things. To be a superlative thinker and writer.
I read through these things I dealt with months ago, I find things that I have since corrected (in my thinking), and I want to change them to represent what I think now. I don’t want to appear like I don’t know something.
But aren’t these documents supposed to reveal my inner dialogue to others? And isn’t their purpose, when writing them, to learn? And in learning, isn’t the assumption that I don’t know?
Even now, posting something new, I should assume that I will post some falsity. Else I’ll never post anything, since to the degree that I progress, I will always find mistakes.
And again, isn’t my foray into the public in the vein of dialogue? Relationship? That means vulnerability—people seeing me as less than perfect. As human. (10/17/2017: Not a brand).
My tendency is to (attempt to) set myself apart. Or above, rather. I want to surpass everyone else. At least in whatever things I have been convinced matter, which ranges from video games (now defunct) to my ability to figure things out. But I’m learning, or perhaps relearning or developing, that humans were designed as a community of individuals. It’s both, so I don’t believe in the diminution of individuality. But to the degree that you’re set apart, you’re removed from the community.
It’s the difference between standing above and standing beside others.
And if Christ’s example teaches us anything, we stand beside each other. With each other.
So what does this mean for my posts? I don’t think it necessarily speaks directly to the editing. But it speaks to the ground-level desire to appear knowledgeable. And I wonder if I should deny the desire to edit old mistakes or to qualify them with commentary merely to deny myself this desire.
Of course, if these posts were didactic, I would have reason to correct them before posting in an effort to protect others from what I know (or think) are mistaken ideas. But that’s not my intent, really. I want to also show my process of thinking and learning. If someone learns something for the things I learn, great.
This reminds me of something else. I think a much better approach to interaction with others—from the closest circles, like my family and church and work, to the furthest, which is the world and even what might be beyond—is to walk beside them. To seek truth and love and beauty, and ultimately and primarily, God, beside others. To learn together, rather than to learn on my own (as if that were really possible) and then to disperse my golden wit to the street-rats of lesser faculty (!). I have already written about this.
I need growth in this area. And perhaps by posting things that reveal my fallibility, I will grow. And if anyone learns from what I learn in the writing of these, we will learn together.
Furthering this idea—this is little different than posting things that I am thinking through now, like this very document, and knowing that I will later make corrections upon them. The same principles go for all writing, all dialogue, all interaction with others. The same correction—that I should seek what’s good alongside others—applies both to the present and the past.
Another thought. If I wrote something that I now know is wrong but didn’t write the correction to that thing in a later document, to protect others from believing that thing, I could add a commentary.
Am I neurotic or what? Goodness. Ha.
So, how should I edit them?
- Fix grammar/typo issues if it makes things too hard to read. Keep it to a minimum.
- Add commentary if something isn’t developed in a later document and needs to be corrected for others’ benefit.
- Be a human with others.
For further: How to keep writing my thinking documents in the same way that I always have (in order to learn), knowing that I’ll probably post them.
Dried and bleached by sleep,
Laid and stacked,
White for writing,
Dropped from a height
To clatter upon concrete,
Where a ruckus wind
Spooks them again
Such are the thoughts
Of this broken daybreak.
Guidelines for writing my thinking documents.
I should only have guidelines that protect me from veering into showmanship. I shouldn’t turn this into some legalistic, neurotic pursuit. I should try to remain true to what I naturally do, which is write to think. The only difference is that I’m revealing my inner dialogue to others.
So how does a person think out loud? Or more accurately, how does a person who naturally fixates on appearing like he has everything figured out think out loud and still be authentic in doing so?
- If you don’t need it for you to understand what you’re talking about, don’t add it.
- You don’t have to make it pretty sounding. You don’t care about that as often when writing for yourself.
- This is not an academic paper. Editing it into sterility is not only too time-consuming, it removes the natural flow of thought that you’d like to keep intact. Mistakes, learning—these are natural processes of learning. Duh.
- You’ll forget these or care more about your appearance at times. If that happens, it’s just another mistake that you’ll have to allow to be public! Ha.
- Develop those thoughts that would drive you to develop them without others knowing you did. Don’t develop thoughts that you only think others would care that you developed, and don’t hide thoughts that you don’t think others would care about.
- You’ll probably add or remove some of these guidelines later. That’s okay. You’re also learning how to post inner dialogue… In fact, by the time this is posted (see below), I will probably have gone through these a few times.
- Here’s a fun one. When should I post this document and the document on how to edit these documents prior to posting? I know that at least in part I want to post them now to preempt all the mistakes that I will post later. Sort of a, “The mistakes you read are on purpose, and I know they’re there, and I know better than them now, so don’t think I don’t know what I’m talking about.” Kind of defeats the purpose of what you’re learning is probably better. So, post them chronologically.
A portal threat (in a narrative) seems to assume that danger is only external to one’s own world. It’s just not realistic. And it has more in common with a simplistic and separatist worldview—that we will cordon ourselves off from all threats in order to be safe—than a truly good one (a godly one).
In the good one, the hero enters into the darkness and faces danger, even at her own expense, in order to save the rest of them. Or to save the ones on the other side of the portal. Or simply out of faithfulness to a godly call, which is just faith working through love.
In the good one, the hero assumes the threat we already pose to ourselves—that even with portals closed, our doom remains—and the need to dialogue with philosophical and theological opponents in order to grow.
And so there is no, “We have to close the portal!” There is only, “Enter the portal! Enter all the portals!”
I am convinced that God delights in our continued and ever-broadening engagement with his creation. And I suspect the answer is never separation. At least not fully or permanently. It’s always connection.
I’m not sure if I want to have it or not. Tolkien doesn’t have a strict routine with it, though I believe he does have some commentary on things. Rowling also uses inner dialogue.
It seems that you can do a better job showing the progression of learning and feeling in the protagonist if you show not just how he or she acts but also how he or she thinks and feels. It’s a strength of writing that you can do this. It seems like it’d be a more fertile soil for showing the changes in the character, which is what the story is all about, really.
Are there any benefits to not having inner dialogue or commentary? It seems like it’d be harder for the reader to interpret what’s going on in the POE character. Readers would have to spend more thought on doing so, even if I wrote subtext masterfully (yeah right).
Perhaps one benefit would be greater show-don’t-tell and the effects it brings. It’d be like putting readers in the scene but not being players in the scene (even though I try to only show what the POE characters perceive anyways—just without their commentary). Whereas telling readers the POE characters’ thoughts is like giving them a view of the inside of the characters. What comes to mind is “Hills Like White Elephants.” But something to be pointed out is how hard it still is to know what’s going on there. You can do it, but you either have to be a good interpreter already, have that topic on your mind, or spend a lot of time and thought trying to figure it out (like me, and I still didn’t get it without help).
So this again brings up the topic of how intellectual should I try to make this? Assuming I could do it well enough, would it be better to make this more accessible or to make it more “masterful?” The latter seems a bit pretentious. I shouldn’t make something of the harder-to-do-and-harder-to-get without a good reason for doing so, and I think the reason that matters most to fallen me is because it’s the harder (and more prestigious) way to do it. At the same time, I do like the challenge, and it’s challenges that make me a better writer—“What’s the least that I could say with the greatest effect on the reader?” That’s always been a goal of mine, though I tend to still make things inaccessible to non-interpreters. Even trained interpreters have trouble with my stuff—even my professor. And that should say something (probably that I suck at subtext).
I really don’t know what to do.
Perhaps the answer is to have inner dialogue but to have action that speaks for itself, as if the inner dialogue wasn’t there. It seems like it’d be easy to use the dialogue as a crutch and to avoid trying to show through the POE character’s action at all. I think this would be a mistake. Indeed, it seems like I could do some interesting things with telling his thoughts and feelings and then having him act apparently other things—shows subtext.
Movies come to mind for showing through action only. I haven’t seen any (that come to mind) that use inner dialogue well. But there are many that do well without it. But a key difference is you get to see body language and facial expressions and you get to hear tone, which indicate a lot about inner dialogue, and which would be difficult to show without some kind of interpretive language being added concerning how they speak and act (in written form). This is actually something that came up a lot when writing my first draft. It’s hard to say how a person looks mad without having that interpretive description (or something like it or an interpretive metaphor for it), “mad.” It’d be lots of cues that could be interpreted a lot of ways, making it really hard to interpret. Doesn’t fit into “clear and concise” for any but the most patternistic and interpretive of persons. Not good.
Another thought. It seems common to think that persons naturally identify with the protagonist—they get carried through the protagonist’s journey and in some sense experience it as if they were the protagonist. It seems only natural to need to know what the protagonist is thinking as part of that experience. And again, for all but INTP literary persons, it’s much easier to know what he’s thinking to have his thoughts on paper rather than having to merely interpret them from actions and dialogue. I guess it depends on my audience, though. But I don’t want only literary types.
It seems like having no insight into the inner dialogue of the protagonist would work better in situations where readers weren’t supposed to identify with any single person, or something.
Another thing. It seems like readers would gain an intimacy with protagonists by learning their thoughts, whether those thoughts concord with the characters’ actions and words or not. And that’s a very good thing.
But I think I’ve stumbled into a muddled dichotomy. Writing an inner dialogue and revealing a character’s inner dialogue are not the same thing. Correlative–not causative. To the degree that a person masters subtext, and to the degree that readers can interpret subtext, an author can communicate a character’s inner dialogue. So regardless of which path I choose, 1) I need to get better at subtext (and never stop getting better at it) and 2) I need to think about what audience I want to pursue and what level of interpretive powers I should expect that audience to have. This second one is true of any communication. Duh, Patrick.
Another point, which came to mind while reading the final bit of this: https://janefriedman.com/internal-dialogue/
I have a lot of practice writing my own inner dialogue. I am doing it now. It seems wise to put that practice to use.
Try it. See if you like it better. If not, get rid of it. It may be more work, but that’s okay.