I have always sought some sort of solitude, and for a reason singular and unaltered since I was able to put it into words — to sort out what I was thinking. I do find myself a rather poor on my feet thinker, although verbally this may not sound like it to those who know me.
I tend to take in a lot of information and take some time to process. Either it is an instinctual response, a way to assess the dangers to myself at some level, or, simply the way I view the world and how to interact with it — taking my time. I tended to behave in this fashion as a child, young man, and now I fully find solace in my delay, which requires solitude.
One illustration is my journal, which for years was my constant companion — it still is, somewhat, but with self-consciousness bothering its edges — whenever I attended a lecture, a class, a film, a reading or a sermon. I would put my head down and take notes, scribbling down nearly all that was spoken without a pure understanding of what I was finding through my notes.
This is partly because this was my mode as a journalist. I took copious notes. You had to, your job depended on it. For years, as the reporter for newspapers in news-dry towns, I needed to take down as much as possible in order to write the longest stories possible in order to fill the spaces alloted to such things in the newspaper (also covered with advertisements, photographs and other newspaper ephemera). I had to come up with so many stories and of a certain length or else the holes in the newspaper would be filled with those other things, and I simply, in good conscience, could not have that.
There were times when I would cover a governing body in the morning — the Mountain View County Council, say — and by end of business I would have had to fill an entire 24-page weekly newspaper with stories, entirely being roughly a 60/40 proposition of news to advertising. It was a lot. I needed notes to do this. Head down, take notes. Scribble as fast as you could.
Hemingway once said a newspaper career won’t hurt a young writer’s should they get out in time. Which is to say, Hemingway (yes, once a journalist) thought the reporting life was good for setting up habits, but it would be best to take those habits and apply them to the writing of other things than words on newsprint.
My reporting career created to my mind a grace under pressure, if you will, to borrow more from Papa; it habituated an economy of words, some might say, but also that willingness to test one’s mettle for deadlines and accuracy. It was all this, and more. The newspaper job more than anything prepared me to sit alone with my thoughts and to take those resulting processed thoughts, culled from content scribbled in a notebook, and place them down in some kind of record of reasoning.
(this is an excerpt of a longer work I’m currently engaged in looking at the research agendas of writer/scholars)