Paul Graham on essays

Paul Graham wrote a new essay this month about the process of writing an essay. Some interesting observations about the essay form, and why he writes essays. I particularly liked this nugget:

An essay is something you write to try to figure something out.

Figure out what? You don’t know yet. And so you can’t begin with a thesis, because you don’t have one, and may never have one. An essay doesn’t begin with a statement, but with a question. In a real essay, you don’t take a position and defend it. You notice a door that’s ajar, and you open it and walk in to see what’s inside.

That’s why I’m writing this blog: to take things I’m thinking about and try to flesh them out a little bit, and see where the process of trying to make my thoughts coherent takes me. I don’t know if I’m successful towards that end, but I think it’s good for both my thinking and my writing. Hopefully the process is also of interest to the reader…