Tag: thinking

Clear Thinking

“Control language and you control thought; control thought and you control action; control action and you control the world.”

Peter Kreeft

William Zinsser wrote in On Writing Well that clear writing reflects clear thinking. Not everybody considers themselves writers (and not everybody needs to) but I notice bad writing is rife in workplaces where there either isn’t time for clear thinking (because the work is fast-paced) or thinking is more or less discouraged because the workplace has its own language with jargon and many abbreviations and the efficiency of the workplace depends on that established language, however unclear it may be.

Sometimes it’s an act of rebellion to simplify language.


Your luck surface area relates to the natural concept of entropy, which measures the amount of disorder in a system. In a clean room where there is a rule for where everything goes—socks in the sock drawer, shirts on hangers, etc.—there are not many possible configurations for everything in the room because of these strict rules. The maximum amount of entropy in this arrangement is small. If you relax those rules, for example by allowing clothes to go on the floor, there are suddenly many more possible configurations for everything in the room. The amount of possible disorderliness, the maximum entropy level possible for the room, has gone up significantly.

Weinberg, Gabriel; McCann, Lauren. Super Thinking (p. 122). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.

The words cannot go against entropy and end up more highly organized than when they started unless fueled by energy you provide. You must send that energy or electricity through the words in order, as it were, to charge them or ionize them or give them juice or whatever so that they have the life to go through the growing process.

Elbow, Peter. Writing Without Teachers (p.24)

It seems to me that a certain amount of disorder (which we later attempt to tame with form) is necessary in writing for how else can we write new things, those “many more possible configurations”, if our thoughts and verbal fluency don’t break down every once in a while? I think Nietzsche also spoke of the same thing.

I think it’s also apt to speak of entropy in writing because the concept comes from thermodynamics, the scientific study of heat and energy, and in writing there are times when I feel “fired up”, like my words are heated, and there are times when I feel things cool down. It’s not that heat is good and cool is bad – both are needed for the craft. The heat of composition and the cool detachment of editing and rewriting.