I'm cannot make movies in my head. When I close my eyes and try to relax, two breaths fail to complete before random images pop and slide into my mind's eye. These thought-images are rarely sequenced and usually not connected. Is this random imagery why people avoid meditation? It can feel uncomfortable.
I had my eyes closed this morning and among the random ideas and images popping in, one thought became clear. I realized that thinking without writing fails me simply because I don't have meaningful ability to properly sequence my thoughts. On top of that, I don't practice.
In a movie, scenes are edited together. Each is crafted and evaluated for their contribution to the overall story. The editing / story-making process is essential for crafting a narrative. The Pixar team is famous for their ability to look at each frame of a move and determine if it moves the action in the right direction. They cut ruthlessly if an idea doesn't evoke the proper response. It's the cutting and pasting and evaluation process that adds value to the thinking. I simply can't think well without having some words to move around on the page.
Writing enables us to think because we can guide ourselves to connected thoughts. By looking at the previous sentence you can make immediate decisions about what to write next. Each sentence becomes an opportunity to expand the idea or narrow the focus. Adding new ideas expands the scope of the writing while a more detailed explanation helps reveal and clarify.
"I have an idea!" you say to your friend before proceeding to explain. If they don't understand your first explanation, you simply continue until the lightbulb of understanding appears over their head. To confirm their understanding, you can even ask them to put the idea into their own words and explain it back to you. This back and forth can be essential to clear thinking. With writing and words, you might be able to do this on your own by re-reading what you've written and asking yourself if you've successfully made your point. With talking, we use other people's brains to hold some of our ideas while we re-arrange and modify them to gain clarity. This process is difficult or impossible when trying to do all the thinking in your own head. It's just too easy to lose the thread.
Writing, as a tool, works for me when I don't avoid it. I can write to convey ideas or to just clear my mind. If I write all the thoughts popping into my mind, eventually I'll exhaust my thinking and calm my mind for other work. If I properly sequence my writing, I may be able to inform, persuade or simply stimulate more and better thinking. Writing can be a lot of work. But, as it is with most things, writing works best when lots of love and care goes into the writing.