How Blogging Changes The Way You Think

On the value of thinking in public — and writing 200,000 words on Medium this year

Clive Thompson

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Two hands typing on a laptop, which sits on a white table. The picture is taken with the hands and laptop sideways, to the lefthand side of the picture. A green plant is slightly off frame on the right hand side
Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash

Holy moses, I wrote a ton of words on Medium this year.

Around 200,000, in fact. That’s the equivalent of writing two entire books. (Man, I hope my actual book editor isn’t reading this, lol.)

I write three times a week here — two essays plus a “Linkfest” where I collect together the best stuff I’ve seen in the last week. It’s a firehose of prose.

All of which makes me wonder: What exactly does writing that much do to you?

I ponder this a lot, because one of my long-time interests is how tools for expression affect the way we think, and thereby the way we understand the world. You can’t write that much and have it not affect you, in some way!

So let’s unpack it. In no particular order of importance, here are some year-end thoughts on How Blogging Changes You, Cognitively and Creatively:

1) Blogging encourages me to develop an idea

Like most people, my head is full of thoughts and stuff I have opinions on. I conduct enthusiastic debates in my head, and internally anyway, I’m always super convincing, right?

But when I sit down to write a blog post about something — that’s when I have to figure out what I really think, and what I really know, about a subject.

Very often, the process of writing a blog post sharpens my focus. Yesterday, for example, I started composing a blog post about the newfangled “Arc” browser, which initially I intended to be a soup-to-nuts review of how Arc works. But as I sketched out my notes — using my weird, lower-case-and-forward-slash technique for writing a draft (which I blogged about here) — I realized I was mostly only interested in one part of Arc: Its fascinating “Easel” technology, which lets you create little dashboards with live snippets from other websites. It turned out that my only interesting thoughts were on that subject, so I zeroed in.

Robert Frost famously described the act of writing poetry as figuring out, on the page, what the heck the poem was supposed to be about: “the surprise of remembering…

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Clive Thompson

I write 2X a week on tech, science, culture — and how those collide. Writer at NYT mag/Wired; author, “Coders”. @clive@saturation.social clive@clivethompson.net