On writing

Lisha Ruan
Feb 9, 2017 · 1 min read

I was thinking about why I’m hesitant to write about things that are still ongoing. And I think it’s because I can’t write about something without limiting how I think about it. When you write, you have to decide on an interpretation of something that will fit into words, an interpretation doesn’t fit all the possibilities that are in your head. And given that the interpretation-in-text is simpler, and given that our cognition favors information that’s easier to recall, I suspect that it starts to compete with your full understanding of the situation.

For example, when I’m journaling about an event, I might be considering describing it as “fun” or “interesting” or “valuable”. For the sake of conciseness, I don’t want to use all three words. But depending on which word I choose, my interpretation of the event itself shifts somewhat, even immediately after I’ve written the sentence when I can still remember the event clearly (with the effect becoming stronger as time goes on). It’s hard to hold onto all the possibilities and nuances that I originally saw in the situation. This isn’t so bad for events that are essentially complete (and of course there’s benefit in storing the information), but it troubles me more when I’m writing about something that’s ongoing, and it feels like I’m favoring a certain (caricatured) interpretation of the situation, such that I’ll be less likely to be able to see all the possibilities later.

Lisha Ruan

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What are some questions you've been thinking about lately? | CS student @Princeton, curious about lots of things.