Honey, We Forgot the Content—Writing as Crap Detecting

In a previous post, I referred to Paul Graham’s masterful essay on the difference between speaking and writing. It highlights one of the primary reasons to write a book.

Writing is not just about making money or building a brand or getting speaking gigs or looking good. It’s about discovering whether you actually have anything to say.

If you’re in the business of selling ideas, information, or instructions, this means everything.

Graham’s point is that charismatic speakers can get away with sloppy thinking and unsupported assertions. Writers can’t. The fluff that you can dish out during a presentation looks vacuous on paper or screen. It confirms Hemingway’s famous observation that a writer’s main tool is “a built-in, shockproof shit detector.

By the way, it’s fine to discover that you forgot the content. Writing helps you detect this early on—before you try to force any products or services on customers or clients. They might be too polite to tell you that you forgot the content.

But written words don’t lie. They stare back at you. They help you decide whether to really develop some content or find another job.

(For related rants, see previous posts on well-baked content and crap detecting.)