I was thinking about my life-long love of ‘discussion’, when it struck me that focusing on a subject in solitude was more productive and rewarding, because there is more time and space to dwell on each thought that arises, with no pressure from ‘the other’.
In a discussion, while it’s true that we get more instant feedback and ideas, we also tend to get a lot of passion and emotion, with some ‘arguments’ dominating and others receding, based on passion rather than reason.
An everyday example for me would be the subject of gentrification. Such a discussion would tend to quickly evolve into ‘pros and cons’, instead of an organic movement of an idea through a kind of ‘trying on’ of each thought, which is how I tend to think an idea through by myself.
The solitary approach has often been more productive and satisfying, I thought, so began to wonder what might have motivated my urge to converse. The answer must have been lying there just waiting for my question, for what instantly popped into my head was “affirmation”.
It seems to me that perhaps an unfulfilled need for affirmation has floated under and behind me in many parts of my life, so I avoided doing anything that could possibly be criticized. Until recently, I almost never let others read what I wrote since adolescence; I was afraid to speak in front of people in spite of many public speaking courses; I certainly couldn’t sing for an audience, despite three years of voice training.
Now I write without fear, and have spoken in groups, and even sang in public recently. So what has changed? I think it’s not that I no longer need affirmation, but rather that I now affirm myself.
I suppose I could romanticize what has happened, but I believe the reality is much more practical, simple and straightforward: years of working on breaking habits of thought have begun to come together. For example, I stopped the hymn of self-criticism and judgment that used to play in my head most of the time. And I’ve ‘practised’ a feeling of contentment enough that it has finally replaced chronic low-grade anxiety or depression most of the time.
Kind of amazing what the ‘inward journey’ can produce. So now I can produce paragraph after (just censored “boring”) paragraph. That was a typical example. Even for the sake of self-deprecating humour, it is important to eliminate self-destructive habits like that.
Which brings me back to productivity vs. conversation. Maybe it’s time to work on a few more habits – like being productive before I indulge in that other pleasure – conversation. Perhaps coffee, then conversation later in the morning…. This requires some productive reflection.
And meanwhile, I absolutely give myself permission to write – and publish – a piece which some would consider boring; and let that be the reader’s issue, not mine.