ᴅᴀᴠɪᴅ ᴘᴇʀᴇʟʟ ✌ @david_perell "The Writing Guy" | Host of the North Star Podcast: perell.com/podcast | Writing at perell.com/ | Teaching at writeofpassage.school/ Feb. 01, 2020 1 min read

Publishing a 15,000-word essay next week.

Here’s what I learned writing it:

1) Great essays make claims that are surprising in the moment but obvious in retrospect.

2) Hold the reader’s hand. Tell them what you’re gonna tell them, tell them, and tell them what you told them.

I can easily publish a 2,000 word essay every week, but 15,000-words is a whole different beast. At that length, you can’t store the narrative arc in your head so you need a Swiss Army knife of organizational tricks.

Ideas are easy.

Structure is hard.

Short essays are fueled by the rush of an epiphany.

But long-form is an arduous process. I’ve been collecting notes for this essay for two years, and started working on it in August.

In these final days, I’ve navigated a tsunami of complexity to re-discover my main point.

It’s easy to lose sight of your central thesis because writing isn’t really about sharing what you think — it’s about discovering what you think.

The real insight comes after you start writing.

But then, everything changes. Your lens, your thesis, your perspective.


There are two kinds of simplicity.

Great writers find the simplicity on the far side of complexity.

“I would not give a fig for the simplicity this side of complexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity.” — Oliver Wendell Holmes

People often ask me when I know a piece of work is finished.

Honestly, my answer is pretty dark.

I press publish on my essays when I start hating them.

When I’ve burned so much emotional energy that my spirit goes dim and I lose my vitality.

Creative work is never “finished.”

The essay is DONE.

16,000 words, which makes it one of the longest essays I've ever written.

You can follow @david_perell.


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