Paul Graham is one of the most famous figures in the startup world. His company Y Combinator helped launch household names like Airbnb, Dropbox, and Reddit. His writings have influenced many more companies and founders.
I love his writing. Every one of his essays is pure signal. It’s the kind of writing I aspire to.
As I’m thinking about this idea of quality over consistency, I wanted to see if he was a follower of it.
Turns out, he is.
He has 196 essays on his site, and the earliest essay on his website is from April 2001. That’s on average about one essay every 36 days or 5 weeks. But it isn’t consistent. Some months he writes more than one, and usually just one a month. He dates his essays by month, not the day because he publishes the essay when it’s ready not because he’s a on a schedule.
In an FAQ asking how long does it take to write an essay he answers:
Usually about two weeks. What You Can’t Say took a month, partly because the topic was so dangerous. How to Start a Startup took a week, because I started it a week before I had to deliver it as a talk. Writing, Briefly was the fastest, at just over an hour.
I think this idea of quality over consistency is more for creators who aren’t trying to make a living directly off of their writing. Writing high quality essays like Paul Graham, who is not a full time writer, gives you many benefits other than revenue.
- You become an authority on the subject.
- You attract a network of like minded people.
- Most of all, your own thinking and ideas become clearer because you are putting it through the sieve of writing and editing.
If you are wanting to build a business with a blog or a newsletter, then yes consistency is definitely something to consider. But there’s much more that comes with building that business than consistent publishing. Unique positioning, branding, and benefits is needed, all of which is becoming much harder to do because of how saturated we are with content.
Ben Thompson, the creator of the excellent newsletter Stratechery is an example of this. This is how he makes a living and he devotes all his hours writing and promoting his work. Graham’s priority isn’t his essays, it’s Y Combinator.
So as I wade more and more into this life as a writer, it’s about deciding whether I want to be Thompson or Graham. You can tell which way I prefer, and it’s a helpful model to use to filter all the advice and content out there about all this.