USS Clueless - Writing and being written

Stardate 20021014.1610

(Captain's log): I keep receiving mail from people suggesting topics for me to write about. Sometimes the letters will say, "I'd love to see what you'd write about this." Sometimes it's "This is important and it needs to be covered." Sometimes the letters will even deliver an accusation, "Is there some reason why you've never written about this subject? Are you part of the conspiracy to suppress it?"

Sometimes I will react to such letters, but usually I won't. I'm coming to realize that the way I write is really quite unusual. Occasionally I receive a letter from some other blogger intimating that I write too much, and indicating that I'm showing everyone up. There may be veiled intimations about the terrible fate that awaits my gold fish if I don't stop. (Fortunately, I don't have a gold fish.)

On the other side of the coin, I receive letters from people telling me that some subject wasn't actually worth writing about, and that it was a waste of my talent (or words to that effect).

All of those comments approach irrelevance. I don't pick what I write about, it picks me. It's really hard to describe this. I look at something, perhaps a letter someone has written, or an article online I've read, and an article just sort of appears in my head, ready to be written. Sometimes that process happens nearly instantly, and sometimes it takes a few hours.

For most people, the subjective experience of thought is as a stream of words in their head. (Which is why most people imagine telepathy as "radio without equipment" and assume that the experience of it, were it possible, would be the ability to "hear" what the other person is "saying" inside their head.) For some people, a small minority, the subjective experience of thought is a sequence of pictures and images. Thought is perceived as graphical rather than verbal.

I do both, and I can switch back and forth between them depending on which is better for the problem I'm trying to solve. I learned picture thinking playing and getting reasonably good at the game of Go, because it's necessary to learn the discipline of holding potential board positions in your head in order to follow possible sequences of play.

I used to use picture thinking in my engineering, too. When I was doing system analysis, I could hold rather large flow diagrams or timing diagrams or state transition diagrams in my head and manipulate them. (It's really hard to describe this.)

But I also think on other levels. In addition to the two (or more) subjective experiences of thought processes, there's another mechanism available to me which isn't really conscious. It's sort of like a sub-processor which works in parallel to my normal conscious thoughts.

I use it for a lot of things, too, but the process of using it is different. For the most part, it tends to pay attention to the kinds of things I am. (I'm running into a problem with pronouns here. "it" is part of "me", and yet on another level, "it" is outside of and next to "me".) What it does is to work on things by itself, and when it comes up with something worthwhile, however it does so, it sends an interrupt. The subjective experience is the "Oh! I know how to do it!" I was standing in line at Qualcomm waiting for a flu injection one time, and the solution to a major problem came to me all at once. That kind of thing can happen any time of the day or night; it can wake me up, it can happen while I'm in the shower, it can happen when I'm reading. It can't be scheduled, though. When it pays off, a whole lot of stuff will flood into my subjective thought process all of a sudden, seemingly from nowhere.

I suppose that it's what some people refer to as a "stroke of genius", with the implication that it's extremely rare. I'm not so sure; on some level I think it happens to most people.

I use it to make life decisions, too. When I'm offered a new job, I use that mechanism to make the decision. What I do is to spend a lot of time thinking about the offer, concentrating on every aspect of it that I know about. That process may take anything up to an hour. Then I stop thinking about it, and go about my normal activities. And over the course of two to four days, I will sense a growing conviction that one particular choice is the right one, as this mechanism evaluates various alternatives and adds them up. I pretty much make all my big decisions this way. I know how to form a decision matrix and handle it all directly, but this works better.

(Some people use prayer to gain wisdom and help them in deciding what they should do. They will compose themselves, and then explain their problem to God. Then they will "put it in God's hands", and wait, and eventually God will speak to them and tell them what they should do. It long ago occurred to me that if you remove the theology and look at the process, these people are doing exactly the same thing I am, and from my own mechanist viewpoint, the answer is coming from another part of their brain rather than from God.)

While I can, sometimes, make this mechanism work on what I need done, forcing that is a lot of work and usually requires days or weeks of effort. But when left to itself to free-run, it can produce answers and solutions very rapidly indeed, except that they'll be about random subjects. But for the blog format, where I write what I want, whenever I feel like writing, that's completely acceptable. Someone recently wrote and said that I was "born to blog", and in a sense that's true; it's an ideal format for how I think. A regular column would be h

Captured by MemoWeb from on 9/16/2004