A thought about thinking

Thanks to a nudge on Twitter from someone whose work I admire, I’ve found myself this morning on the beautiful Farnam Street blog, and I’m here to recommend that you take a look (including at the blog design, which is very simple indeed.)

The blog’s author describes his reason for writing like this:

I have a fairly simple objective: I want to go to bed each night smarter than when I woke up. I also want to live a meaningful life and become a better person.

I’m not smart enough to figure out everything myself, so I try to master the best of what other people have already figured out. Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

The best way to do this is to read a lot. And so I make friends with the eminent dead. Along the way I write about what I’m learning. I’d encourage you to look around and decide for yourself if this is something that interests you.

His blog is really a digest of thoughts and ideas that come to him while reading or, in some cases, watching longer videos. He includes excerpts and makes it easy for you to go and find the source.

But what’s really compelling to me is that despite heavily using other sources, he conveys a clear sense of himself as a thinker, someone sifting through things.

The link that sent me to the blog was to his post In Praise of Slowness, which is really a post about thinking. In it, he loops outwards to other pieces he’s written, including a summary of a famous study of the limits of multitasking, and a short quote from David Foster Wallace on the importance of being able to choose for yourself what to think about.

Twenty years after my own graduation, I have come gradually to understand that the liberal arts cliché about teaching you how to think is actually shorthand for a much deeper, more serious idea: learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed. (David Foster Wallace, “This is Water“, 2005)

What Farnam Street captures for me is the possibility that thinking in public—which is really the basis of the best public writing—is a way of generating new ideas from existing, already published material.

So this is a follow up post on something I find valuable in the blogs I read: that they introduce me to ideas through the eyes of a reader who sees different things than I do.

Have a think about this as you develop your writing in public and gain some sense of ownership over your own blog as a thinking place for you.


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