Disclaimer: This is an exploratory writing post. No checking for typos or other editing was done.

It seems that when I am writing, I basically almost always wirte for myself. This is fast and easy. I do find it useful to do this, for generating and fleshing out ideas. If I would just think out the ideas in my mind, the ideas would not develop as well as if I am actively trynig to flesh them out.

This type of writing seems to be different from the type of writing that you do when you have an idea and you want to explain it to other people. If you are thinking about a concept that you have already thought about a lot, then maybe you can write well enough, such that it will also provide value to other people. However, in general it might be a bad idea to try to hard to optimize for other people's understanding.

In exploratory writing the main idea is that you want to augment your thining abilities. You don't want be slowed down by needing to explain things that are very clear to you, to other people for example. I have noticed that when I am doing exploratory writing, I have never the issue of coming up with anything to say. I just keep going, in a similar way to when I would speak. If I where to take into account how well other people understand what I am saying, it will slow me down immensely.

A good strategy that I should try out it to have two seperate writing passes. First you do some exploratory writing about an idea to actually develop into something coherent, and aferwards you write up te idea again from scratch, optizing for making it understandable for other people. Doing this "destillation" of already thought out ideas should be a lot quicker than doing the exploratory writing. Even though you will be redoing the writing, this approach might be quicker overall, because both the exploratory writing as well as the explanations to other people will both be better.

Another cool strategy that I might try is to just publish the exploratory writing directly. If it is slightly useful to other people, it might be better to do this than to not publish anything at all. My current plan is to just post something to less wrong, without doing even one editig pass. So far I have noticed that editing takes 30-60% of the writing time.


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2 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 12:58 AM

I agree with the separation, but offer a different reason.  Exploratory writing can be uncensored; public writing invites consideration of the reaction of the audience.

As an analogy, sometimes I see something on the internet that is just so hilarious... my immediate impulse is to share it, then I realize that there is no upside to sharing because I pretend to be the type of person who wouldn't even think that was funny.  Similarly, on more philosophical subjects, sometimes I will have an insight that is better kept private.

You see what I did there?  If I were writing this in my journal, I'd include a concrete example.  However, this is a public comment, and it's smarter not to.

I agree with this. This is a constraint, otherwise, I would have more posts already. You don't want to constrain yourself by needing to think about if what you are writing is something that you can say in public.

Though I wonder how much value is lost by people not posting certain kinds of content, because of this or similar reasons. If you want to provide more value, a good heuristic might be to talk about stuff that seems important, but that you do not want to share, because that probably indicates that other people will also not talk about this.