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moridinamael comments on Be secretly wrong - Less Wrong

32 Post author: Benquo 10 December 2016 07:06AM

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Comment author: moridinamael 09 December 2016 06:31:25PM *  1 point [-]

I have a "secret blog" that I share with only a handful of friends. It is extremely psychologically useful to have a place where I can post stupid, half-formed thoughts. It gets the thoughts out of my head, allows me to either advance them or abandon them. Doing that "in public" would merely waste everyone's time.

I see this as being related to the creative phenomenon of "churning" and the practice of writing "morning pages". You do benefit from having a space to just vomit thoughts without restraint or filters so you can pin them down and move on. You won't usually want those thoughts to be publicly attached to your name.

Comment author: Benquo 09 December 2016 06:36:39PM *  1 point [-]

That makes a lot of sense - I have a lot of unfinished drafts, but I think my "morning pages" workspace is just my brain. I often find myself rehearsing little speeches about various topics, refining them, saying stuff in my head and then assessing whether it's right. This isn't something I talk about a lot, or something that would have occurred to me as relevant when advising someone who's trying to get better at writing, but I effectively get huge amounts of practice "writing" that people who don't do this don't get.

I suspect this is a big source of variation from person to person in writing/communication ability, that "morning pages" is sort of a hack for. If you don't automatically verbalize a bunch of your thoughts before they're ready to share, making time to do so (e.g. "morning pages") can help close the practice gap.

(A friend has reported an analogous "superpower" where they tend to automatically imagine future scenarios such as how an interpersonal interaction might go, which lets them rapidly iterate on plans using "inner simulator" before taking the comparatively expensive step of trying one out in practice. (ETA: The commonality here is that we both have mental processes that seem to automatically, effortlessly, as background processes, precalculate a lot of stuff in ways that just doesn't happen for other people unless they make a deliberate effort. This leads to other people seeming inexplicably bad at a thing, when the truth is we just unknowingly put a lot more work into it.))

My recommendation is that once you get past the idle verbalization (if you're me) or morning pages stage, making clearer more specific claims is something that you can also do in private until you're ready to do it in public.

Comment author: moridinamael 09 December 2016 09:08:30PM *  5 points [-]

One advantage of physical capture versus using my brain is that my brain will entertain the same thoughts for years, until I try to write them out and finally see how absurd and incoherent they are. Or if they aren't incoherent, then once I write them down, they actually advance to the next mental "paragraph".

It's similar to how I might have some grand idea for an app that I'm sure will change the world, and within five minutes of opening a blank code editor I realize that my idea is trivial, or AI-hard, or that I don't really care about it as much as I imagined, or dumb in some other way. I never really find that out until I start coding, though.

Comment author: drossbucket 10 December 2016 10:39:11AM 1 point [-]

I also do the 'saying stuff in my head' thing a lot and it is definitely a useful form of writing practice - my main one, in fact, as I'm relatively new to actually writing things down frequently.

I find it's mainly good for practice at the sentence/paragraph level, though, at least at my level of discipline. I tend to end up with fragments that sound good locally, but drift around pretty aimlessly at the global level. Trying to write something down makes me notice that. It's helped me realise that I have a lot to to work on when it comes to focus and structure.

Comment author: JohnReese 09 December 2016 07:01:44PM *  1 point [-]

"(A friend has reported an analogous "superpower" where they tend to automatically imagine future scenarios such as how an interpersonal interaction might go, which lets them rapidly iterate on plans using "inner simulator" before taking the comparatively expensive step of trying one out in practice.)"

Hmm...I tend to do this too, and assumed it was a common cognitive ability. Getting accurate sims of the future is nontrivial and hard though...a problem that gets worse if one starts extending the simulation temporally. I agree this is a good idea generally speaking...but there is a tradeoff here...every sim needs data to constrain future versions and for model refinement, so I suspect there would be situational constraints on how many such iterations one can run internally. After all, paralysis by analysis is a thing.