A few notes on writing

I am under no illusion of being a very good writer, but I have discovered a few things based on my own experience.

The best approach to writing for me seems to be:

  1. Write down the topic with a few ideas that come right away.
  2. Set it aside and let it digest. During this time, I typically investigate the topic in my direct experience and write down a few words about what I notice. Apart from that, I don’t think about it very much if at all.
  3. When the topic feels sufficiently digested, I write an outline and sometimes add to it as new insights and ideas comes to me.
  4. And when it feels sufficiently digested for an article, write the article. If I allow time for digesting in this way, the writing typically happens quickly and easily.

The time for digestion varies but usually goes over a few days. And sometimes, I combine step one and two and change the outline later after some digestion and exploring,

When I find myself satisfied about what I have written, it’s usually when I wrote the final text fast and easily after allowing enough time for digestion and expiration.

If I struggle with a text and have to revisit and rewrite, it usually means I didn’t allow enough time for digestion, direct investigation, and outlining. No matter how much I rewrite, it typically feels disjointed and as if written by committee.

It often helps to set it aside completely and go back to the beginning. I may do a new outline. I explore it in my direct experience. And I write the article from scratch. Then, it often comes out fast and easily and feels much better.

And sometimes, I write fast and easily without this process, and I am initially happy with it. As the topic has more time to digest in me, I typically realize I left out something important or I wish I had organized the text differently. And I may rewrite it.

The digestion process leads to a better product. And equally or more important, it allows me to explore the topic more thoroughly and discover something new and surprising to me, which feels far more satisfying. Surprising myself, even in a small way, makes it worth it.

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If you can’t explain something in simple terms, you don’t understand it

If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t really understand it.

attributed to Richard Feynman or Albert Einstein

I try to write very simply here, and it’s for a couple of different reasons:

It’s easier to read and understand.

Why not make it as easy to understand as possible? If I want what I write to be useful for the recipient, I want it to be as clear, simple, and understandable as possible.

It shows me how well I understand it.

If I start a post and it doesn’t flow or is easily written, I usually set it aside, let it simmer somewhere in me (without paying much or any attention to it), and return to it another day. Most often, it is then much easier to write and it flows better.

There is another reason why I chose to use a simple language. It’s because I have seen others, especially in academia, who use an overly complicated and fancy-sounding language. And more often than not, they do it – either intentionally or unintentionally – to mask a lack of clarity and poor understanding from their side. Some also do it to appear more impressive and mask a lack of self-esteem. I don’t want to play that game.

I want to understand and come from some clarity. And I want to use the writing process to find a bit more clarity.