‘Putting Ideas into Words’

Paul Graham, with some striking thoughts on how writing focuses, refines, develops, and communicates ideas better than most anything:

Half the ideas that end up in an essay will be ones you thought of while you were writing it. Indeed, that’s why I write them.


I can to some extent write essays in my head. I’ll sometimes think of a paragraph while walking or lying in bed that survives nearly unchanged in the final version. But really I’m writing when I do this. I’m doing the mental part of writing; my fingers just aren’t moving as I do it.


The reason I’ve spent so long establishing this rather obvious point is that it leads to another that many people will find shocking. If writing down your ideas always makes them more precise and more complete, then no one who hasn’t written about a topic has fully formed ideas about it. And someone who never writes has no fully formed ideas about anything nontrivial.


Putting ideas into words is certainly no guarantee that they’ll be right. Far from it. But though it’s not a sufficient condition, it is a necessary one.


❮ Previous post

7 Things (I Learned From Grandpa) [#82] February 19, 2023

Next post ❯

Spotify’s AI DJ Will Let the Recommendation Engine Explain Itself February 22, 2023