While reading paper books I often get distracted by footnotes and by taking notes. While reading online I often get distracted by tangential references. I’ve tried to take this into account by making my website a place of focus.
I believe that writing can say more in less words, while also being more effective.
(Note to self: Wow this ↑ is choppily written, please re-write.)
In my practice, I continue to revise essays long after I’ve posted them— because, what if text were living? I don’t want to create more noise on the internet. For this reason, I also often take down essays that I no longer think are of quality. In the first year of this website in total I took down about twice as many essays as I had left up. Increase signal-to-noise by reducing noise.
I have a few hundred text files each for different ideas. Incrementally, I revisit each and add new thoughts. Occasionally a lucky draft will coalesce into coherency, but usually only after several months, if ever. I also have a couple year-long drafts that I intend to post eventually, but they’re not done cooking yet.
In practice I publish less than maybe 2% of what I draft. I’ve put about 500 hours into this website and it can currently be read in full in under 30 minutes.
The design of this website is meant to reflect my style by emphasizing legibility and simplicity. Focus, not froth.
The design of this website was inspired by Derek Sivers’s website, and he also helped me start this. His essays also showed me the beauty of succinct writing.
Chronology: How writing has affected me
- I created this website and started writing about ideas for the first time.
- I spent a few hundred hours drafting essays during this time (though I posted little on my website). It was through this writing that I first had the experience of thoughts that extend through time. Until this point, the longest I would ever think about a particular idea was about a week, as required by English class papers. But now I had many essay drafts that I had been iterating on for months! Somehow thoughts feel different when they extend through time like this.
- There’s more here that I don’t know how to describe. Maybe it was that I hadn’t felt a connection to my past self in quite this way before? I would revisit old drafts that I had neglected and have many ideas to add, and when I did this I often found myself impressed by the connections that my past self made, but my current self would not. It felt like I was collaborating with my past self, seemingly in real-time.
- While I continued to draft a lot during this time and still published relatively little, I observed that writing seemed to have a cohering effect on my ability to speak. As I had already written about almost every idea I was thinking about, it became easy for me to articulate my ideas succinctly in conversation. And, or the first time, I felt like I knew what my thoughts were. Moreover, I could clearly point to uncertainties that were on the edge of my understanding and ask about these in conversation. I felt like I had rapidly become much more articulate. And I didn’t know I hadn’t had these abilities before now.
- When I first started writing in 2020 (both for essay drafting and journaling), I preferred to write in the manner that I spoke. In the past two years, though, I have been able to pay attention to and improve how I write; I have seen these improvements in my writing permeate back into my speech.
Drawing © Ariana Dyer.
© 2020 – 2022 Chris Lakin
- See my most recent essays on my Substack.