Thursday, 17 June 2010

The journey changes the destination

Having blogged last week about starting to write my conference paper, now that I've completed it I thought I would write about the process and the finished thing.

Something I forget until I go through the process, is how an idea can shift and morph under your hands as you bring it into being. Writing for me is always a journey, and I never end up quite where I thought I would be as I set out. It doesn't matter if it is a story, a paper or even a novel, the sheer act of writing changes the content and I discover new aspects and concepts as I travel.

The analogy of a journey is a useful one. When I set out I can see the first few steps of the path in front of me. I can see landmarks on the horizon, and I have a basic map in my hands. As I walk along the trail, the landmarks come closer and appear clearer in my vision. But somehow, up close, they never look quite like they did from a distance. They have more facets, more detailed crenellations and carving on the gargoyles. Eventually I find myself standing alongside them on the ridge, looking onward to the next section of the path, and a new set of landmarks in the distance. The path has taken a subtle turn and the sun is now off to the other side. Looking back, I can see the twists and turns which have pointed me in this new direction but which were hidden when I set off.

As I continue my journey I realise that I am going to end up somewhere different from where I intended; not where I thought I would be, but definitely where I want to be.

This has been the case with this paper. It still explores the things I intended to explore, but the journey has been richer and had more interesting cairns littering the side of the path than I realised it would. The result is something which I am pleased with and which has done a good job of telling me what I think about the subject.

Like many others, I write because I want to know what I think, but don't really know it until I put it down in words. However, in line with Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, in the act of examining what I think, I change it, so the destination I set out for is never the one I reach, not because it's really changed, but because the journey itself has changed me. And that, I guess, is really why I write, because travel broadens the mind.

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