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How Writing Makes You Smarter Than You Usually Are

Theory: Writing is a device for making a person appear smarter than he or she usually is.

Substantiation: We know from experience that smartness is not a constant quality. Sometimes we are smarter than we usually are, as when a sudden insight arrives, or a burst of creativity, or a moment of sustained focus. These smarter than usual moments can occur at any time.

On the other hand, even the smartest person is sometimes less smart than usual.

So, smartness varies over time. If we graph smartness vs. time, it might look like this.

Ideally, we would like to use only the peaks of the graph, when we are smarter than usual.

Fortunately, writing allows us to do that. It does so through two processes: (1) if we can immediately recognize that a thought is less smart than usual, we discard the thought and don’t write it down, and (2) if we do write down something that’s less smart than usual, the processes of revision, rewriting, and editing allow us to trim away the stuff that’s less smart than usual and replace it with stuff that’s more smart.

So, writing (including the crucial revision process) is a handy device that you can use for creating a version of yourself who is smarter than you usually are. Please use it for good, not evil.

Note: The vertical axes of these graphs can be replaced with any other quality you might want to exhibit in your writing, such as honesty, compassion, wisdom, creativity, sexiness, awesomeness, etc. The creation of a multidimensional graph showing the simultaneous variation of all of these qualities is an exercise left to the reader.

(Cross-posted.)

About Nick Arvin

Author of The Reconstructionist + a couple other books.

7 comments on “How Writing Makes You Smarter Than You Usually Are

  1. andreadupree
    July 25, 2012

    I love this. Thank you. I’m going to go make some charts and graphs to convince myself there are some spikes, after all.

  2. megnix
    July 26, 2012

    Me too! I love when something pops out that’s smarter than me!

    • andreadupree
      July 27, 2012

      That’s pretty freakin’ smart, then.

  3. John Holley
    July 26, 2012

    Love it. Of course, lawn mowers get the spikes and, after watching a little TV post GL and comparing it to the incredible stuff I heard there, I’m pretty sure there’s a cultural lawn mower working pretty hard out there.

    • andreadupree
      July 26, 2012

      Ah, John. It all comes back to Grand Lake, eventually, doesn’t it?

  4. Shari Caudron
    August 3, 2012

    This is terrific, Nick — it helps me understand why I’ve been feeling a little, uh, dumb lately. Time to get back to the page. Thanks for the inspiration!

  5. danmanzan
    August 14, 2012

    Check and check! Now onward to get the pecs and abs of the Eureka Man.

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This entry was posted on July 25, 2012 by in Uncategorized, Writing and tagged , , , .

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