Biography of an Idea

Jun 10, 2023
You’ll often find creatives are obsessed with process and tools. A primary tool for me is that I write an awful lot. I write because I realized at art school that you can only draw a small percentage of the attributes of an object. You know, if I were to draw this [holds up a glass], you would understand only 20 percent of its nature. You would have no sense of its weight or material or temperature. You would have no sense of the way that it reacted to its environment. Writing helps me frame the problem. A lot of mistakes are made when you frame a problem, because you could already be dismissing 60 percent, 70 percent of the potential ideas.
Jony Ive

Why write? I initially started programming because of the leverage. Doing work quicker, better, and more efficiently. Programs that can run while you sleep.

Writing is like programming in that regard. Highly levered ideas. It turns ideas into things faster than anything else — even writing code. It works while you sleep (and even after you’re gone) and because there’s no ongoing maintenance required. And unlike programming, where you’re stuck at a level of specification without ambiguity, you’re in complete control of the level of logical rigor (the spectrum of mathematical proofs to short essays like this).

Just the process of writing something down often clarifies it. It gives infinite context length to our own processing. With consistent writing over the years, I’ve finally seen the evolution of my thinking — something that’s hard to put in perspective otherwise.