Charles Darwin on Why We Write

I came across this via Austin Kleon, quoting Charles Darwin (emphasis added):

“Let the collector’s motto be, ‘Trust nothing to the memory;’ for the memory becomes a fickle guardian when one interesting object is succeeded by another still more interesting.”


[A naturalist] ought to acquire the habit of writing very copious notes, not all for publication, but as a guide for himself. He ought to remember Bacon’s aphorism, that reading maketh a full man, conference a ready man, and writing an exact man; and no follower of science has greater need of taking precautions to attain accuracy; for the imagination is apt to run riot when dealing with masses of vast dimensions and with time during almost infinity.

We write for many reasons, but the most important is to capture and crystalize our half-formed thoughts while they happened, because those seeds of insights are fleeting; and because the act of writing, over time, sharpens both our writing and thinking.

I’m constantly amazed to find that a few jotted notes can transform into some of my most impactful business ideas or blog posts.

And, despite this, I can easily trick myself into thinking that all the important stuff is “in my head” at the times that I don’t bother to write things down.

I know not everyone is going to write a blog.

I’d still encourage you to find a way to regularly capture your half-formed ideas, and to take the extra step of developing them into something—you decide what.

Inevitably, you’ll become a better observer.

And there’s nothing better than stumbling across an old thought you had and turning into something crisp, clear, and helpful.

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