Good writing = Good thinking

Jan 9, 2024

There’s a tweet I really like by Paul Graham1 that goes

A company asked why it was so hard to hire a good writer. I told them it was because good writing is an illusion: what people call good writing is actually good thinking, and of course good thinkers are rare.

This got me wondering: Are the best writers also the best thinkers?

If good writing = good thinking…

I think it makes sense.

When you’re daydreaming, it's difficult to think in a productive fashion. With writing, you are recording thoughts over time. You now have a visual way to observe your thinking. As a result, you can iterate on that & improve.

It’s similar to reviewing basketball footage or listening to your piano recordings, then adjusting your technique to get better. In essence, recording thoughts over time affords you the ability to learn from the past.

Here’s a meta example: When I first wrote this substack post, it was simply a half-baked thought. By writing about it, and conducting revisions, I more fully formed the chain of thoughts which you are reading.

This epitome made me reconsider the meaning of the phrase “ideas are cheap.”

Sure maybe ideas are "cheap," in that anyone can think of an idea, especially after it’s been spread around. Kind of like how after Steve Jobs announced the iPhone, every company raced to create a touchscreen internet smartphone…

Yet, if you actually take the time to think through & develop an idea from first principles, you'll be miles ahead of the competition that copies your idea. As you’ve arrived at your fully formed idea only after significant iteration and refinement.

It’s analogous to working through thousands of paintings before creating the Mona Lisa. Even though another painter could try and mimic DaVinci’s masterpiece, they would fall short in matching his excellence. The imitator may know which lines to paint, though only DaVinci knows the 1000 lines not to paint.

This is precisely why companies need not worry about copy cats and new competition2 as they will almost surely make a mistake you have already learned from. This principle extends to anyone working hard at something and fearing imitators.

These learnings culminate into two axioms which, if you accept, can be used to construct the corollary that the best writers are the best thinkers.

  1. Writing is a visual medium which humans use to exercise thought.

  2. One can only become the best at something via practice & refinement.  

Then, if you wish to improve your thinking, it might be worthwhile to iterate and improve your writing.



Unless they are innovative. Startups succeed by first understanding ideas that placed the incumbents, then recognizing a novelty which can put themselves in a position to beat said incumbent in a market.

© Copyright 2024 Zenfetch.

© Copyright 2024 Zenfetch.

© Copyright 2024 Zenfetch.