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Philosophy of Writing

I've wanted to blog for a long time, years before I actually published my first post. The primary thing holding me back was a sense of perfectionism—something seemed final about putting my writing out into the world. I feared that starting a blog committed myself to the naive views of a 17-year-old with equally immature prose.

But as I grew older, I realized that the professional writers I had long admired had not started out like the pros originally. I came to recognize that getting to their level required that I both start writing now and also accepting that my writing would lack the nuance & clarity I aspired to for a while.

Why Do I Write?

At the most basic level, I write to figure things out. Writing forces me to articulate my thoughts in the same way that your high school math teacher asks you to show your work when solving a problem. My foremost goal with writing is to learn something new about the world. To that end, I care about getting it right and am seeking the actual truth as much as possible.

I've adopted the view that putting myself out there and risking being wrong in the short term will get me closer to the truth in the long run. If I waited until I had things 100% figured out, I would never publish anything. Instead, I seek to share my writing after I find it sufficiently mature1 and await feedback and future learning to help evolve my views.

Therefore, I openly invite you, the reader, to please share your thoughts on my writing via email. It can be anything—disagreements with the arguments, reactions, suggestions for improving my prose, or whatever else you might find relevant. All I ask is that you share in a mutual commitment to discovering the truth, and not use my inbox as a forum for your ego or malice.

This blog is a permanent work in progress. Publicly, it's a platform for my thinking about the world and a venue for others to engage critically with me. Privately, it's a tool for me to grow as a writer and thinker. And one day, I hope it will serve as an inspiration for others seeking permission to start writing themselves.

What Do I Write About?

So what types of things do I want to figure out? The list seems to be never-ending2, but I try to constrain myself to those topics I feel the most qualified to write about. But what makes a person qualified is not what you would expect.

We tend to imagine the most qualified people as infallible experts in something. Yet, the things I have the most to say about are not the areas I've rarely stumbled in. It's the topics that I struggle the most with personally—and am therefore the most committed to finding the truth in—that seem to be the most worthwhile to write about.

So a good heuristic for figuring out what to write about is to notice where you've made a lot of mistakes yourself. A useful byproduct of this approach is that rarely are our problems unique. So the things I've struggled with, like choosing what to work on, are often challenging for other people too. In writing, I hope to not just figure things out, but also help others who are asking similar questions.

If you like my stuff, I've started a Substack to disseminate my essays via email.

  1. Deciding when my writing is "sufficiently mature" is both subjective and ever evolving. In computer science, we call this an optimal stopping problem. Much to my disappointment, I've yet to write an algorithm to determine when to publish my writing.
  2. One of the cool things about writing is that the space of ideas to explore never depletes itself. A little curiosity naturally leads to a lot more questions.
© 2021 by Wes De Silvestro. All rights reserved.