The Case Against ‘Writing’

Man writing whilst also doing work on laptop.
The majority of note-taking: all too often a genuine attempt to feel productive or desperate attempt to memorise.

Too much writing: too much ‘thinking’ about thinking.

I was recently asked the question ‘How can I improve my note-taking?’. It’s understandable that one living in today’s world would be concerned with such a thing; Information Anxiety is real. In a environment of abundance, FOMO can be crippling. I’ve heard Tyler Cowen talk of how information has been having a sort of opioid-type effect on society. There’s obviously several angles from which to come at this question. But how about simply doing less?

Writing things down for memory’s sake is generally a bad idea. It allows you to not just consciously forget but unconsciously forget. Most of our thinking is unconscious; it’s where our best ideas come from, it’s where we figure out a lot of shit, it’s where the automation source code lies. Putting something on paper and forgetting is obviously therefore a bad idea if creativity or development of X (an idea, question, your understanding of something – whatever), is the goal. It should be allowed to percolate away in the mind, consciously and unconsciously, to nag and pull and itch and burn until it can no longer be detained.

There’s probably only two good reasons to write. The first is communication. The second is active development of an idea, question, insight, and so on. It is very different from merely writing something down and moving on. An example of active development would be scriptwriting or poetry or other forms of Art, or an ongoing conversation with yourself — in, say, a journal — about questions you have or problems you’re trying to solve. Most other writing is a waste of time.

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