Paul Graham on Writing Ryan 30 Mar 2005

17 comments Latest by tEST

Paul Graham posted some tips on writing. Many of them apply to software development as well. For example:

Write a bad version 1 as fast as you can; rewrite it over and over; cut out everything unneccessary.

In other words, get something up, see how it works as a real thing instead of an idea, and then start making it better. Yep — it’s our old friend, Get Real.

17 comments so far (Jump to latest)

ML 30 Mar 05

I def concur that reading aloud is a great way to tighten up your writing:

read your essays out loud to see (a) where you stumble over awkward phrases and (b) which bits are boring (the paragraphs you dread reading)

SparqMan 30 Mar 05

And don’t trust MS Word’s grammar style recommendations. Sometimes passive voice is okay.

Brad 30 Mar 05

These are pretty good. The “write a bad version 1” echoes the advice of Anne Lamott: “write shitty first drafts.” In fact she has an entire chapter entitled “shitty first drafts” in her book Bird by Bird, an entertaining and frequently useful guide to writing.

Steve, via Den, Fla and now RDU 30 Mar 05

I found this guy a month or so ago. He’s got an incredible amount of insight. Read and reread all of his essays.

rick 30 Mar 05

They taught me this in high school. I was forced to write all 1st drafts on paper so I wouldn’t be tempted to use any fancy word processing features while writing. This gets away from the “Get Real” mantra a bit though.

duff 30 Mar 05

Great advice for us “must-get-it-perfect-the-first-time” procrastinators. What helps me is just do something, anything; open Photoshop and scribble!

dwlt 30 Mar 05

Sometimes the hardest thing about a new project for me is just getting started. It doesn’t matter where you start, just start already!

Getting a version 1 done also has the added benefit of being a reward in itself: iterate, celebrate, iterate, celebrate, and all that :-)

sloan 30 Mar 05

I’d say go a step further, forget about it even being a version 1. Get your thoughts out and down on paper (real or electronic) before they are gone. Some of the best writers I know walk around with 3x5 index cards in their pockets so that when something goes through their brains they can write them down immeadiately. A version 1 requires some sort of structure, 3x5 cards don’t. Another reason I avoid labeling it as a version is so I don’t lock in… maybe I am being picky, but even a label of version 1 I think is too much sometimes.

ac 30 Mar 05

Another important quote from Paul Graham on hiring smart people/developers:

…the smarter they are, the less pressure they feel to act smart. So as a rule you can recognize genuinely smart people by their ability to say things like “I don’t know,” “Maybe you’re right,” and “I don’t understand x well enough.

Proof that most bloggers are full of shit…

Don Schenck 30 Mar 05

Said it before, I’ll say it again: No such things are “Writer’s Block”. Simply lower your standards.

Dovetails rather nicely with the Get Real idea.

Chris S 31 Mar 05

As a former teacher of freshman composition and technical writing, I agree wholeheartedly. Same thing I told my students, who have a tendency to want it to come out as a finished product the first time (so they don’t have to write more).

I sort of forced them to do it my way to demonstrate that the fast way takes so long you die.

bla bla 26 May 05

This is boring. Everything is boring. God dammit ig otta do sometin.

cavernous 25 Jun 05


tEST 23 Aug 06