Lindsay Cortright

Lindsay Cortright

beware what sounds insightful

“If you read something on the internet today, the odds are good that the writing was produced to capture your attention… I think the arms race for our attention has led to an arms race in writing. The best online writers are able to make something sound insightful — regardless of whether it’s true, or whether it’s useful.” - - Cedric Chin, Beware What Sounds Insightful

I used to really hate cliches but the older I get, the deeper I understand them. They are cliche because they are restated, over and over. But they are repeated so often because they are true. The more experience I have, the more things start to click into place in a way I could not explain - you can only experience it. You could never convince younger me that I didn’t understand these aphorisms. Yeah, yeah of course, we know it, no need to repeat it. It becomes trite. We recognize the truth, but we don’t understand it until we experience it.

I think about this article a lot. It’s easy to latch onto these nebulous ‘new’ ideas because they’re different. Our brains crave novelty. But not all new ways of speaking are actually helpful. (counterpoint - what if they are helpful because their nonsense allows us to project what we need to hear? maybe they do not contain as much meaning as we assign but they’re value is that we assign them meaning and through that, learn more about ourselves and life experience.

Some ideas sound insightful because they are true. But not all true ideas sound insightful. A true idea that is commonly accepted can sound trite and obvious: we call those clichés. The job of a good writer, then, is to present some truth in a way that doesn’t trip our cliché triggers. This means that attention seeking in writing usually devolves to the same handful of tricks.” - Cedric Chin, Beware What Sounds Insightful

It’s an excellent article and I highly recommend reading the whole thing, especially if you are a writer.

See also: Beware of the idea that comes to easily