Writing vs. Talking

What I’ve always hated about writing, long as I can remember, is sitting down in front of a computer, facing an empty screen, and having to type. I just freeze up—it’s the most excruciating experience. In that situation my subconscious mind calls up  the idea of every great piece of writing that was ever written  and my standards are so high–okay, my perfectionism can get so overblown– that it’s like my fingers physically won’t let my brain type anything they fear might not be the exact truth, whether factually or emotionally. You have no idea how hard it was to write a book like that. Some days I thought I wasn’t going to make it.

But there’s something I’ve always loved, by contrast, about just sitting quietly and talking one-on-one with a close friend. In that context my heart understands perfection is neither possible nor desirable and the only really important thing is to exchange enough imperfect ideas for us to connect. In those moments I know that if we just give it time and effort, together, the truth will  emerge and it will be beautiful enough. Fortunately, I was able to get the vast majority of my book written in this mode of open conversation rather than my defensive typing. But the logistical contortions I needed to make that happen were exhausting, and part of why you haven’t seen more writing from me since. I mean, I’ve continued to think, obviously–actually my own thinking on humanism and religion has evolved a lot in the past 2, 3 years. But I wouldn’t be satisfied to show you writing about it written in my typing mode, and what I needed to do to produce writing in my conversation mode has been too exhausting most of the time.

Now I hope this doesn’t sound like just a PSA after all that confession, but today I got a new laptop and installed Dragon Dictate–and I’m dictating this update to you. It feels so freaking good. “Look, no hands!” No hands that, when typing, feel stretched out between us, like I’m in zombie stance, or trying to push you away when all I’d really want is for you to draw nearer so we could talk.

I’m amazed that one little technological intervention can make me feel like a different person. But that’s how science and technology work, isn’t it? We could have left ourselves well enough alone at some “spiritually pure” stage of evolution where traveling long distances or curing diseases or growing food reliably were impossible. But we ways to transform our experience and get more out of ourselves. We were rightly dissatisfied with how things were and with our own limitations and with the fact that by themselves, all the prayers in the world can’t improve our physical lot, and sometimes physical circumstances make a difference. Now I’m getting grandiose about it. The point is I’m just enjoying the act of writing again for the 1st time in so long I can’t even remember. I’m realizing how much there is for us to talk about, about humanism. There’s so much going on in the world that needs to be seen more through a humanist lens–seen and discussed–with passion, with positivity, without Pollyannishness. For one thing, we in humanist and secular circles (and progressive, intellectual circles in general) spend so much energy talking about what needs to be improved in the political world, or what needs to be improved about the beliefs of others–both important topics, by the way–that we forget to take the time and the risk to talk about what we want to improve about ourselves.  But we can get more done “out there”  if we our stronger for being able to talk more openly about what’s “in here”.  We just need to have the conversation.  And I’m finally feeling like I can have it with you through this medium.

So, if you wouldn’t mind, and you’ve gotten this far, indulge my sentimentality and forgive my failings and welcome me into the world of blogging, for real this time. I think I might stick around. If you’re here, to talk, I will.


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