Sep 012009
 

For those of you who don’t know who Paul Graham is, here’s a quick primer:

Classic Self-Referentialism

Classic Self-Referentialism

He’s is a coder and he started and sold a Internet Startup company during the .com bubble and sold it for a handsome sum.  He’s now a internet startup guru and the co-founder of Y Combinator , writer(Hackers and Painters), essayist and coder. Quick enough?
I’ve been an avid reader for 15 years now, enjoying mostly fiction (sci-fi, fantasy) and an odd smattering of non-fiction here and there (mainly science and related). To date I have yet to read a better essay writer than Paul Graham, although I must admit my experience is quite limited.  I haven’t read his book, “Hackers and Painters“, yet, but his essays are really fantastic.

I’m a fan of short stories because the authors keep stories short and the plot very clean, but I think a requirement for a short story is a twist or just be extremely different, possibly exploring an unfamiliar writing style, basically anything to remove it from the category of unremarkable.  Paul’s essays are non-fiction equivalent of short stories.

I’m not a schooled or practiced writer at all so my ability to judge these things rests squarely on my experience as a reader.  Paul’s writing is definitely not bubble gum for the mind. It’s more like eating delicious vegetables, slightly harder chewing but infinitely more nourishing!  His writing has inspired me to start writing myself and I thought what better way to start than to write about his writing and his ideas about writing.

I love Paul’s essay “The Age of the Essay“ and his insights into the history of essays.  One of the things I got from it is best explained by a little paraphrasing: “In a real essay, you don’t take a position and defend it. You notice a door that’s ajar, you open it and walk in to see what’s inside.“ so you’re not tyring explaining yourself to the reader but thinking out loud on paper.

He speaks of surprises cropping up during the writing process.  To quote again, “An essay doesn’t begin with a statement, but with a question”.  I am blatantly not doing this is this essay but I’m getting there!  One thing that struck me about this is that I often have thoughts that I think are interesting and one of two things will happen: 1. I will be busy doing something else at the time (something which is really unavoidable and needs to be done at that time – PG’s hint for dealing with this scenario is to carry a notebook with you) or 2. I gather speed while on a specific track or train of thought but then I just spin out of control, losing direction as other thoughts interrupt.  I really got the idea that writing is controlled way of exploring ideas.  So I’m adding writing as my third and more useful thing to happen when inspiration strikes.

PG writes about smart people, specifically how they relate to hacking or programming. I read somewhere that one aspect of IQ is not only the speed but rather the depth (only explored very superficially today with the proliferation of online IQ tests) of intellect or it’s ability to think “deep“.

Now these two factors (speed and depth) are definitely related and are proportional to a degree but they manifest differently.  As time is the essential difference between these two measures of IQ and because it is out of the equation in the relatively static ‘writing space’ I am unable to say anything about his speed of intellect whilst I can say with great certainty that his ability to pierce deeply is profound.

I like to think of it as mental scaffolding.  Writing helps to build scaffolding so you can think at greater heights or pierce deeper.  Writing also serves to create permanent structures, so that thinking on related subjects is easier later on.

It’s like when you start watching a Shakespeare production for the first time; initially it’s difficult to understand but after a while it becomes second nature as the scaffolding for understanding Shakespearian English is built.

I think that’s the beauty of hacking or programming, the process of coding builds very strong scaffolding because they are so abstract and generic, about as abstract as one can build. They can used to think with with virtually any subject.

PG is a coder and hacker (amongst other things) and his extensive experience of these areas has allowed him to build some formidable structures which he climbs in his essays.  With his writing style you can really see his thought process at work. The free flowing nature of which surprises me each time I read one of his essays.  They truly are such a pleasure to read!

Another requirement to writing piercing pieces is domain knowledge. PG’s experience with coding, startups and companies is again extensive, so his smarts in combination with this knowledge is the reason his writing is so excellent.  I think smart people can also draw parallels between seemingly dissimilar subjects (hacking and painting) and find fertile ground in between.

PG shows how the writing process can be really fun and rewarding (to oneself and to others) so I plan to try my hand at it and hopefully one day to be as good as him.  Another point he makes is the ability to recognize the approach of an ending and to grab it when it arrives…so I’ll grab mine… if somewhat clumsily. :)

Thanks to Paul Robinson and Geoffrey Robson for helping me correct my somewhat bad grammar and only slightly better spelling.

  5,562 Responses to “Why Paul Graham writes better than me!”

  1. Title

    [...]we came across a cool web site which you could appreciate. Take a appear in case you want[...]

  2. how to make money fast

    [...]Every as soon as in a while we decide on blogs that we study. Listed beneath would be the most up-to-date internet sites that we decide on [...]

  3. I cover Midlands

    [...]that will be the end of this report. Here you will locate some web-sites that we assume you’ll value, just click the links over[...]

  4. Check this out

    [...] that is the end of this article. Here you’ll find some sites that we think you’ll appreciate, just click the links over[...]…

  5. 1 vinyl mini blinds

    [...]always a major fan of linking to bloggers that I enjoy but don?t get a whole lot of link enjoy from[...]

  6. Peugeot EXPERT L1 DIESEL 1000 2.0 HDi 130 H1 Professional Van ATV

    [...]although websites we backlink to below are considerably not connected to ours, we really feel they’re in fact worth a go by way of, so have a look[...]

  7. create contest

    [...]check below, are some entirely unrelated websites to ours, nonetheless, they are most trustworthy sources that we use[...]

  8. Buy prints

    [...]check beneath, are some entirely unrelated web sites to ours, however, they may be most trustworthy sources that we use[...]

  9. renta de oficinas

    [...]we prefer to honor lots of other net sites around the net, even if they aren?t linked to us, by linking to them. Underneath are some webpages worth checking out[...]

  10. carpet cleaning new york city

    [...]although internet websites we backlink to below are considerably not connected to ours, we feel they’re actually really worth a go as a result of, so possess a look[...]

  11. Title

    [...]always a large fan of linking to bloggers that I adore but don’t get quite a bit of link like from[...]

  12. Bookkeeping uk

    [...]the time to read or pay a visit to the material or web pages we have linked to below the[...]

  13. Blogs ou should be reading

    [...]Here is a Great Blog You Might Find Interesting that we Encourage You[...]…

  14. Recommeneded websites

    [...]Here are some of the sites we recommend for our visitors[...]…

  15. Websites worth visiting

    [...]here are some links to sites that we link to because we think they are worth visiting[...]…

  16. Hash

    [...]we prefer to honor lots of other online web-sites on the internet, even when they aren?t linked to us, by linking to them. Below are some webpages really worth checking out[...]

  17. Online Article…

    [...]The information mentioned in the article are some of the best available [...]…

  18. E-cig

    [...]one of our visitors just lately recommended the following website[...]

  19. Title

    [...]Sites of interest we have a link to[...]

  20. E-liquid

    [...]Sites of interest we have a link to[...]

  21. the full details

    [...]The information mentioned inside the post are some of the very best obtainable [...]

  22. infographic

    [...]the time to study or stop by the material or websites we have linked to below the[...]

  23. Wax

    [...]we prefer to honor many other web internet sites on the internet, even if they aren?t linked to us, by linking to them. Below are some webpages really worth checking out[...]

  24. mangosteen health benefits

    [...]Wonderful story, reckoned we could combine some unrelated data, nonetheless truly worth taking a search, whoa did one particular find out about Mid East has got a lot more problerms at the same time [...]

  25. Read was interesting, stay in touch…

    [...]please visit the sites we follow, including this one, as it represents our picks from the web[...]…

  26. Marijuana

    [...]very couple of sites that come about to be comprehensive below, from our point of view are undoubtedly very well worth checking out[...]

  27. women’s shoes

    [...]The details mentioned within the article are a few of the very best offered [...]

  28. Cool sites

    [...]we came across a cool site that you might enjoy. Take a look if you want[...]…

  29. vaporizer mods

    [...]that may be the finish of this article. Here you will obtain some websites that we consider you will appreciate, just click the hyperlinks over[...]

  30. Marijuana

    [...]the time to read or visit the material or sites we have linked to beneath the[...]

  31. penisola del Trotternish

    [...]check below, are some entirely unrelated internet websites to ours, however, they may be most trustworthy sources that we use[...]

  32. Visitor recommendations

    [...]one of our visitors recently recommended the following website[...]…

  33. AMP Citrate

    [...]Wonderful story, reckoned we could combine a number of unrelated data, nonetheless really really worth taking a appear, whoa did one learn about Mid East has got additional problerms as well [...]

  34. Srixon golf balls

    [...]Here is a good Blog You might Locate Exciting that we Encourage You[...]

  35. cosplay conctacts

    [...]Sites of interest we’ve a link to[...]

  36. Websites you should visit

    [...]below you’ll find the link to some sites that we think you should visit[...]…

  37. Recent Blogroll Additions…

    [...]usually posts some very interesting stuff like this. If you’re new to this site[...]…

  38. Title

    [...]here are some hyperlinks to websites that we link to mainly because we assume they may be really worth visiting[...]

  39. Blogs ou should be reading

    [...]Here is a Great Blog You Might Find Interesting that we Encourage You[...]…

  40. Mobile Windshield replacement

    [...]check below, are some entirely unrelated internet websites to ours, having said that, they’re most trustworthy sources that we use[...]

  41. Recent Blogroll Additions…

    [...]usually posts some very interesting stuff like this. If you’re new to this site[...]…

  42. Great website

    [...]we like to honor many other internet sites on the web, even if they aren’t linked to us, by linking to them. Under are some webpages worth checking out[...]…

  43. Great website

    [...]we like to honor many other internet sites on the web, even if they aren’t linked to us, by linking to them. Under are some webpages worth checking out[...]…

  44. Title

    [...]The info mentioned inside the post are several of the ideal offered [...]

  45. Read was interesting, stay in touch…

    [...]please visit the sites we follow, including this one, as it represents our picks from the web[...]…

  46. sexy video

    [...]The information mentioned in the write-up are a number of the most beneficial available [...]

  47. Blogs ou should be reading

    [...]Here is a Great Blog You Might Find Interesting that we Encourage You[...]…

  48. Websites worth visiting

    [...]here are some links to sites that we link to because we think they are worth visiting[...]…

  49. eliquid diy

    [...]always a huge fan of linking to bloggers that I really like but really don’t get quite a bit of link really like from[...]

  50. Related…

    [...]just beneath, are numerous totally not related sites to ours, however, they are surely worth going over[...]…