A few years back, the notion of “safe spaces” took the world by storm. And while I definitely don’t support “intellectual safe spaces” at a place like the college campus (it’s literally called higher education; the young minds of tomorrow are supposed to grapple with difficult and challenging ideas at a school— that’s the entire point), I do support the idea of a kind of “safe space” that a public and anonymous blog occupies on the internet. Ie. What you’re reading now.
As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, the entire process of writing is a kind of “scratch space” in which I play around with different opinions and ideas that I may be entertaining on a particular subject. These thoughts are usually inchoate or minimally at various stages of development; only through the process of writing and putting down my thinking into concrete, discrete and concrete units of meaning on paper do I slowly tease out my true feelings and positions. This process, like any other process of discovery and formulation, will be full of dead ends, incomplete thoughts, and illogical/circular/nonsensical reasonings. That is simply the nature of thinking.
Active thinking, on a particular subject —any subject— is a habit I wholly encourage folks to do more of. Nowadays, I know it’s immensely easy to fall into “passive consumerist mode.” When we have a free twenty minutes, it may be tempting to just flip on The YouTube and waste an hour entertaining ourselves with cute squirrel videos or whatever.
But instead: I urge people to stretch their brains and form an opinion about something, anything. Read up on a subject that interests you, think about it critically from multiple angles, weigh the pros and cons, and write about it.
For me, a public and anonymous blog serves as an ideal medium for this process. By being public, it allows me to share my nascent ideas with select individuals (and the world writ large); by being anonymous, it affords me a measure of security in being able to write freely and without fear of backlash or reprimand. There are other logistical benefits of keeping a public blog too– chief of which is that I leave behind a concrete, very real body of work, which I can easily look back on and trace the trajectory of my own growth and thinking. And finally: For whatever reason, for me at least, a public blog on which I publish articles gives me a personal feeling of responsibility and accountability to write every day. For many years, I journaled privately. But since transitioning to a public writing habit this summer, I can definitively say –for me at least– this public facet matters. It makes me take the entire enterprise more seriously. Even if I had zero online readers, just by nature of its publicness, it feels like there’s a legitimacy to the project that makes me write (and hold to a schedule) more seriously.