Johnson reportedly said to Boswell, “Sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.” Likewise when our thoughts might become public.

Any act of writing forces us to think clearly, critically, and carefully. But if our writing may be read by strangers, we have all the more reason to be careful. We may allow ourselves imaginative wool-gathering in idle hours, but we bear some obligation to card, spin, and weave those stray strands into tapestry if they will be scrutinized by others.

True, there are different kinds of writers just as there are different kinds of weavers. A skilled weaver alternates bright henna with dull tannin to good purpose, while a novice conceives no pattern of them and fails to impose one as the shuttle flies. From the same material, one tells the saga of Bayeux while the other reels off a few yards of comforter for the night. The first sort of weaver makes sense of the world while the second merely gathers it. Likewise different writers.

But I believe writing for publication (or Internet posting) is purposeful writing; as such, it requires disciplined thinking. I’m afraid that in this world of rambling blogs and Facebook posts, we too often fancy ourselves to be “thinking aloud” when in fact we are not thinking at all.