Writing guidance

Gleb Posobin

“Your own ideas mostly seem trivial to you because you have the right concept structures in place to support them. You wouldn’t come up with these ideas otherwise. So it’s easier to notice your own ideas in a dialogue: your friend has different concept structures and notices them.”

“Corollary: don’t be afraid to say obvious things.”

“Corollary 2: it is ok if it seems to you that you do not have nontrivial ideas of your own. It is just hard to notice them.”

Patrick McKenzie

“Meta thought: you radically underestimate both a) how much you know that other people do not and b) the instrumental benefits to you of publishing it.”

Byrne Hobart

“Write for yourself, and you’ll write for the close friends you didn’t know you had.”

“…write about what you’re interested in, meet people you’d find interesting, discover your next topic, continue. The end result is that you subject your intellectual development to a sort of intelligent design instead of random evolution: you’ll tend to go where the next insights are.”

“…This means that anyone who writes about obsessions is helping to shelve, organize, and expand humanity’s library of useful knowledge. If you can do it, and do it well, you’re making the world a better place.”

Zadie Smith

She was asked, “Do you have any secret techniques for overcoming self-doubt?”

She replied: “As you know, there isn’t really any solution to self-doubt. In the end, you just have to write and doubt simultaneously.”

Richard Osman

“But then I made a deal with myself, and you will need to make this deal too. I chose to ignore the doubting voice for a month. Just one month. I made myself sit down for two hours a day and write. For me it was 1,000 words at a time. I didn’t go back and revise the previous day’s work. I didn’t fuss over the opening sentence. I wrote 20,000 words in that month, and, honestly, at that point there was no turning back. My story existed, my characters existed, and I had a routine I knew I could stick to.”

Alex Danco

“I don’t think you need to write every day. Some days your writing brain is off and that’s fine. But you need to ship something every week.”

“Never start with a blank page. Start with anything. It could be an outline, it could be starting with quotes or excerpts from what other people have said about your topic or even an adjacent one. It could be “I want to make this point, and here’s why.” It could be “here are three people who I hope get something out of this, and why.” It doesn’t even have to be text: one trick I use pretty often is grabbing screenshots of tweets and throwing them into my Evernote doc. You can get rid of all of this later, although you may realize you want to keep it.”

James Clear

“3 tips for getting started as a writer:

1. Publish on a schedule. Consistency develops ability.

2. Share your writing publicly. Writing is a magnet. It attracts like-minded people.

3. Write about what fascinates you. You don’t need to be an expert. Curiosity leads to expertise.”

Morgan Housel

“Good writers don’t walk around all day with 100,000 words of eloquent wisdom in their heads. No one can do that. They take some vague feeling they’ve been thinking about, dig into a bunch, write down what they’ve discovered, realize half of it doesn’t make sense, delete most of it, write some more, realize the new stuff contradicts itself, panic when they realize they don’t understand the topic as well as they thought they did, talk to other smart people about why that is, learn something new that reminds them of this other thing that might tie into the second paragraph, discover that this thing they believed before they started writing isn’t actually true, realize that if that thing isn’t true then this other thing is probably really important, and so on endlessly. Grinding through this process reveals bits of context that are hopefully new discoveries to the reader. More importantly, they were likely new discoveries to the writer before they set out writing.”

“Many of the good writers you enjoy probably aren’t much smarter than you. They’ve just forced themselves through the process of transferring vague feelings into words and the clarity that generates. The takeaway for voracious readers is that you can discover new perspectives and new context by writing yourself.”

David Perell

“It’s the best way to learn faster, build your resume, and find peers and collaborators who can create job and business opportunities for you.”

“Content builds on itself. It multiplies and compounds.”

“Good news: You already have the tools to write online. You know how to read and write. And you have access to the Internet, which means you can create and distribute your work to the whole world at a low cost.”