Blogging for Self-Discovery

“The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe.”
― Gustave Flaubert

After I finished writing yesterday’s post, inspired by the question of whether I wanted more commentors or more readers, this Gustave Flaubert quote crossed my path. Not for the first time, I realized that I blog to discover what I believe.

I used to think people who wrote journals must use them in some way to clarify for themselves what they believe. And maybe they do. I have never found that I know what to do with a private journal other than dump all my mental tape loops onto paper in the hope of finding a way out of circular thinking.

But blogging is different.

Why?

Because blogging is public.

The process of transforming an initial impulse to write about a topic into a blog post requires me to clarify my thoughts. My internal prompt is often a gut feeling or an emotional response to something. Emotions are not skilled with words. To translate a physical emotional response into a form an audience can read, I need to use words. Recruiting my internal editor as a collaborator, I can craft writing that came from my heart but is sensible to my mind. As I edit, I clarify the ideas for myself and my readers at the same time. Blogging about my questions allows me to bring theory and experience together, letting my heart and mind work together to show me what they have taught me.

Once I have published a post, comments often lead me to further reflection. Comments can point out flaws in my argument, exceptions I hadn’t considered, alternate approaches, or related ideas. I have been known to change my mind or refine my understanding in response to insightful comments.

I learn the most from the comments that make me defensive. Because the web is a permanent public forum, responding from the depths of negative emotion can be dangerous, leading to regrettable words on the page that can’t be disowned. Taking the time to formulate a response that gets past the initial emotion forces me to confront the source of the emotion, leading to greater self-awareness.

In order for blogging to be a deep tool for self-discovery, I write about the things that confuse me, the places I am growing, the things that matter to me. This blog has become focused on perennial interests of mine: art, creativity, play, and meaning-making. Of all the art and creative play I engage in, my writing is the media in which I feel I have the furthest to grow, so writing is the primary art I blog about. If I ever reach a point where I am satisfied with my writing, I am sure there will be a new creative endeavour that I struggle with, and I will probably write about that. But for now, writing is the sweet spot, the growing edge, the place of potential.

Do you write to find out what you believe? If so, do you find it more effective to write for your eyes only or publicly?

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About Kate Arms-Roberts

www.katearmsroberts.com

Posted on March 8, 2012, in Blogging, Creativity, Daily Life, This Writing Life and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. I don’t think my purpose is to find out what I believe. I already know what I believe, but it does help me to share my thoughts. Before, I kept my beliefs, thoughts, and feelings to myself. Now, I can share them with whoever wants to know about them. Writing/Blogging, like you said, definitely helps to put those things into words. Words are tools we were given for understanding, and it’s great to be able to use them for our own benefit, and the benefit of others.

    I don’t think public or private writing is more effective. I wrote a lot for myself before, and it was rather cryptic. You would really have to be inside my hand to fully grasp what I was saying. Now, writing publicly, I put more effort into being clear and understandable. Writing privately is fine for a personal release, but writing publicly is what works for getting understanding and feedback.

  2. I used to write in a journal a lot and still do sometimes. That was definitely a process of discovery. When I blog, I set out to share what I know, and in the process discover a lot. A lot lot. I learn what I don’t know and what I do know, and then my commenters teach me a bunch of new stuff. That’s why I think blogging is magical.

    • Kate Arms-Roberts

      Blogging really has been magical for me, too. I am stunned by how much it has help me get in touch with passions I had trampled and dreams I had shredded.

      • Trampled passions and shredded dreams –I can relate! This is a fantastic post today –made me go, “hmmmm.” I think both private and public writing have their benefits. I tend to censor myself more when writing non-fiction on a public forum —my MOM might read it! 😉

        I’ve become braver with my fiction. I mean, hey, it’s fiction!

  3. I’m interested by what you said about the distinction between blogging and journaling. At a blogging workshop the other day I told the students that if they journal or write personal essays, then they are blogging. Most really resonated with that, but I could see one woman blanch at the idea of her journal being public. I think people have different ideas of what a journal is; I blogged awhile back about how I didn’t journal, and the commenters were all talking about different things, it seemed. Combine differing definitions of a journal–diary, daily writing trigger, what have you–with differing sensitivities on privacy, and it proves hard to generalize.

    How do you like posting every day?

    • Patrick –

      Did you mean, if they journal or write personal essays *online* then they are blogging? Also, re the woman who didn’t like the idea of her journal being public- was she aware that blogs can be set to “private.” Why did she think it *had* to be public?

      I used to journal -in an actual journal – with a nice cover, and a favorite pen. I guess I’ve put that aside for a while since I can type faster than I write, and sometimes I can’t write fast enough for the thoughts to stick around, so typing it is!

      Of course, sometimes I can’t type fast enough to get the thoughts down on screen before they vaporize, but that’s another story…

    • Kate Arms-Roberts

      People really do have very different ideas of what a journal is. I find myself less and less willing to use the word because I don’t know what it means. I certainly feel like what I write privately is vomitting on the page and what I write for my blog are short personal essays.

      By the time I read your comment last night, I had already decided that today’s post would be reflections on daily posting. I believe that having read your question prompted my unconscious to use the word “like” more than I had originally intended, and pushed me towards a slightly more emotional reflection than had been floating around in my mind during the day yesterday.

      I am fascinated by the way our minds/Muses absorb everything and transmute them into creative products.

  1. Pingback: The Danger in Blogging About Your Growth Processes « Kate Arms-Roberts

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