Quora answer: What does it take to be a prolific writer?

Sep 11 2011

I am a prolific writer. Prolific does not necessarily mean a good writer, as my wife keeps reminding me. But there is a certain point when one begins to be able to just set down and start writing. Taking that stream of consciousness and making it into something worth reading is then a lot of work, which I do not do except for things that are published. So I have a lot of very doubtful writings on my web sites and what is available (over 10,000 pages) is just the tip of the iceburg of what exists off line or in manuscript form. Writing is my way of thinking things through. I learned to write working papers in college, and never stopped. I also learned to do diagrams as the basis of my thinking. When you combine that with a lot of reading, almost ten years sitting in the British Museum reading everything in Philosophy and myriad other subjects I could get my hands on, and almost every book that existed was available there, then eventually you think you might have something to say.

I know, I know that is all illusory. But it keeps me going, now writing answers on Quora, as an advertisement of my more serious works available on my web sites. I tried going to conferences but that did not work, so here I am slaving away answering questions on Quora in hopes that someone out there will find Special Systems and Emergent Meta-systems interesting.

At a certain point I became fluent in my writing. And after that all I had to do was sit down and start writing. As I write I discover things that I did not know before, and that gives me the elevated interest and really fascination or thrill of discovery that leads me to read on in the myriad subjects of my interest, which is fairly wide. I will never forget after I received approval for my Ph.D. in England which took about nine years, all my Advisor had to say was, now you have a general education. In other words he was saying, you are just beginning, and you now have the basis for going further and doing your own research on your own. One thing leads to another and after a while you have read a lot of pages and written a lot of pages in response to what you have read. And years have gone by. Some parts of life you missed out on, myriad parties I suppose. But on the other hand when all is said and done, a little knowledge goes a long way. My favorite book along these lines as I have mentioned previously is Knowledge Painfully Acquired by Lo Chin Shun.

There is someone who spent their whole life thinking very deeply, who came to a conclusion after myriad avenues explored, and set his conclusions down succinctly as a guide to others. Being prolific but not being a very good writer has many disadvantages, one of which is that your work does not get read even if it deserves to be read. So my advice is to learn your lessons well, and then strive to become prolific after becoming proficient. Those who become prolific prior to becoming proficient are doomed to fail even if their ideas are very good.

However, failure in terms of getting attention should not be counted as overall failure. The actual reward is in the discovery process itself. The thrill of the chase in to a territory never visited by anyone else, not mapped out, and with no beaten tracks. It may be rare in the earth, but in the landscape of ideas there are still many continents left to discover, and there the local inhabitants do not mind.

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