Ideas and Writing

I usually feel underwhelmed at my ability to come up with good ideas, such that when I go to write anything, my mind feels completely empty.

I want to look into

Writing so every sentence contains an element of surprise.

When David Perell comes across an idea that seems surprising, he will try it out when speaking with others, even random people. What's he looking for? How does he know if the people are surprised? Does he just ask them?

When he finds a good one, it becomes a building block for an essay.

Harness it to express a larger idea?? Wow, I'm not sure I can see how you can take one idea and build it into a larger one without getting boring. I do see though that an idea can work with what you know and take you on a journey. Others will read your journey, get ideas of their own and, ideally, write out their own journeys. This perpetuation of the expansion of ideas can lead to some exciting occurrences.

Some of the elements listed here to "corral ... into a coherent structure that has a beginning, middle, and end." are:

  1. facts
  2. ideas
  3. frameworks

I am interested what else could be added to this list. I was just reading on his WriteofPassage website and from there I would add:

  1. metaphors
  2. stories, and
  3. original terms

I like his quote: "looking for simplicity on the far side of complexity." This makes me recall that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is simple and should not be allowed to be made complicated. Simplicity should be our goal, but sometimes I think we have to slog through some complexity to get there.

So, David is looking for how people react to what he's telling them. "Are the confused? Bored? Or am I saying something insightful, or surprising?"

He "devote[s] a lot of time to cultivating...connections...[with] people who know how to push [his] thinking". They:

  1. have a "sense for what's interesting
  2. have "an ability to ask revealing questions"

CRIBS (What David looks for)

  1. Confusing - move away from towards other ideas
  2. Repeated - move away from towards other ideas
  3. Interesting - take seriously and dig deeper
  4. Boring - move away from towards other lines of thinking
  5. Surprising - take seriously and dig deeper

I'm curious about how this would come across. It seems to parallel, but not quite intersect, the idea of intensely listening by repeating what the other person is saying so they know you are listening and Chris Voss's seeking to get the "That's right" response.

David credits his writing for surprise to Paul Graham who likes to say that "an essay should meander toward surprise".

"Surprise and insight and entertainment are all very tightly correlated."

Claude Shannon's Information Theory - "The more surprise is contained in a message, the more information it contains."

When speaking of his usage of Twitter, David says he plays by throwing out many seemingly unrelated and incomplete ideas, but "there is always a thread of insight that fits into [his] tapestry of ideas."

David also pays more attention to responses to the little ideas on the horizon than to responses to his completed works. Ideas on the horizon guide his thinking.

Twitter allows for a prolific amount of feedback very fast. Immediate reactions. I wonder though how that compares to those people he cultivates connections with, those who he respects their opinions. Might he find that he gets a ton of Twitter feedback from people he wouldn't respect? I guess, however, that if it's interesting or surprising, you are just looking for counts.

The graph of the sciences showing the fragmentation of academia, as measured by co-citations is very interesting, especially alongside the idea that "A kingdom of epiphanies is waiting for people in the middle who can find new ways to connect the dots." My first thought is that religion shouldn't be ignored, I like that religion can serve as a starting point to science as in "all truth is part of one great whole".

I now want to read his People Driven Learning essay.