Bioethics Blogs

When writing becomes investigating

We write for many reasons. To remember, to instruct, to tell, to amuse…

Sometimes we write to investigate. Investigate what? Of course, something that we don’t really understand and therefore wonder about.

Writing is also a prestigious linguistic medium. Printed products (books and articles) often express the opposite of incomprehension and wonder. This is not surprising, since the printed product is the end result of long work.

This creates problems for the investigating beginner. One of the difficulties of writing about difficult things is to dare express your lack of understanding. You have to put your finger (or pen tip, or keys) precisely on your incomprehension.

Instead, one tends to quickly write up an impressive facade that hides one’s incomprehension. One mimics the style of the finished printed matter. One then starts at the wrong end. One starts at the end.

If you just slow down and ask yourself: What do I really understand here? What don’t I understand? And then honestly write it down – in the form of questions – you soon begin to write in a way that explores what needs to be clarified.

The moment your writing makes contact with your incomprehension, the writing becomes explorative. It will also come alive, because you don’t write as if you already were finished with everything. You make discoveries and you change during the work.

I would liken it to daring to ski down the slopes for the first time and dare to trust that you can turn back and forth so as to maintain a speed that you yourself can keep up with.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.