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Jordan Peterson Reveals His Thought Process and Writing Techniques



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would you say you have some kind of a

photographic memory a little bit or no

no no no not at all not at all so these

books you are you to kinda you can say

page 7 you know he said no it's not I

know I've known people like that like I

had professors you seem like you may

have a little bit of that because the

way you know I don't organize myself

that way I knew professors at Harvard

one particular professor Richard McNally

who was a walking library man he

extraordinarily well-read person very

very smart very fast on his feet and

that's really how he seemed to organize

his knowledge he would know the author

he would know the page he'd know the

source he'd know where the book was on

the shelf I'm not like that I thought

you were for sure so ok so let's say I

have a theory that I've been working on

for a very long time and what happens

when I read something is I plug it into

the theory so I know the full outline of

the theory it's it probably take me 45

50 hours to lay it out in lectures I've

done that online and then but I keep it

grows and grows and grows and grows I

know where to put everything nice so if

I read something I think

oh yes that's Lots there and so and so

you store it as well if somebody asks

you a question you need to use that fact

you have it somewhere still where you

bring in and say ok but it has to be

related to this work I've been doing

over time yeah got oh it's kind of like

there's this technique called memory

castle that people have used for

centuries to remember things and so what

you do is you you you you sit and you

you imagine a might be a place that you

know like a little place a house and

then you can place the things that you

remember imagine you walk through the

house you can place the things that you

want to remember at different locations

in the house but you have to you have to

turn what you're remembering into an

image and then you can walk through the

house and and you can lift things up and

find what it is that you're trying to

remember I sort of do that with this

theory it's like it's it's been

interesting I've literally worked on it

for it's been 40 years and so I know the

I know the story and I know it's

branches and I keep adding to it and

adding to it and shifting pieces around

from time to time and so that's how I

remember things and I forget a lot of

what I read a tremendous amount of what

I read that's now and then something

pops up and it sticks that changes the

complete perspective for me a little

for me to know that your views obviously

has been vested for many years but

you're also constantly working on it I

guess this leads to me wanting to ask

this question from you is I think for my

opinion I think I run a business here

I'm an entrepreneur we do what we do

with value tainment

I believe the people that make it to the

top of any space they learn how to

process issues better than others they

learn how to put things together a

system that helps them make a good

decision and then from there they come

out with their opinion may be based on

some facts based on whatever they

collect together or data to say this is

what I believe about God this is what I

believe about politics here's how I view

economics this is what I think works

this is what I think is the way we ought

to live the 12 rules for life

right here's what I think boys need to

do or women or men or this is based on

this what do you do what is your

processing when a topic enters your mind

how are you taking the next necessary

step to come up with an answer or a

belief that you're very comfortable

saying this is what I believe and I

don't want the questions you don't like

to be asked is do you believe in God and

your response is phenomenal because you

said one I don't know what believe means

to you and I don't know what God means

to you because the word believe in God

may be a different meaning to me so

that's a very interesting answer to give

but how do you process issues here when

a new topic comes out to you Kavanagh

comes out everybody goes through the

leadership with Kavanagh right and you

come out and you know afterwards like

well I think he needs to you know well I

I usually do think about what I want to

know like what's the step yeah sure I'd

love to hear that part well I mostly I

can think in images and so if I'm

building things because I like to do

carpentry and fix houses and that sort

of thing so I like to build things and

if I'm figuring out how to build

something I can picture it and so I can

think in pictures but I don't usually

think in pictures

I usually think in words and I think

pretty formally in words like if I'm

sitting down let's say with the

Cavanaugh issue there was a question

that question Eric Weinstein asked was

was there an alternative to him being

confirmed or not confirmed because he

sort of thought both of those wouldn't

bode well for the country and I thought

okay well what could the option possibly

be so I think that through in words and

then I think well he could well I

eventually thought well he could be

nominated and then

how would I feel in a situation like

that well my my nomination would be very

contentious is there a way that I can

help dampen the contentiousness and

still retain my reputation thought well

you could be nominated and resigned what

would be the advantages to that and then

lay out one side of the argument and

then I'll lay out the other and another

and another and have an argument and

like an in with herself absolutely

that's what you know absolutely got it

yeah basically what you do and this is

really what you do when you think is you

you know if thinking is an internalized

conversation which at least is one form

of thinking is that you spin off avatars

of yourself and you say well you take

this position and you take this position

and you take this position and then you

have each fictional part of yourself lay

out the argument and and argue it

through so for example when I write so

that's another thing that I've done a

lot of to prepare for my lectures you

know I've written well I've written two

books and one of them took 15 years I

wrote 3 hours a day for 15 years every

day that was the first book that's a

books of various it's very hard yes out

so so I laid out I laid out that

argument but the way I did it was well

first of all you generate your ideas

that's the first part there's actually a

technical process that goes along with

this I use a computer in a particular

way so imagine I've laid out an essay

well then what I'll do is I usually use

two screens I take a paragraph out put

it on the other screen break it into

sentences okay so I put spaces between

all the sentences okay then I look and

see if the sentences are organized

properly if that if that's the proper

order try to reconstruct them so that

they that they make more sense they flow

better and I take each sentence one at a

time and try to write a better version

of the sentence maybe three or four

times and every time I try to write a

better version of the sentence I try to

think of all the ways that sentence is

wrong and could be fixed so at the level

of the word at the level of the phrase

at the Leveson school oh you bet like

four maps of meaning the first book I

probably wrote every sentence in that

book 50 times are you Oh No absolutely

and then well there's more so then so

then I'll take put the paragraph back

together and if it's better than the

original paragraph then I'll put it in

so then I have a replacement for it but

then also imagine it's a chapter well

then the chapter has a structure so I'll

outline the structure so this is real

helpful to if you're writing a chapters

like well boil it down to ten sentences

so you've written a chapter down to

answer yes you go to chapter right at

ten sentence outline and that forces you

to condense what you wrote and with ten

sentences you can see the argument does

that argument make sense then you can

cut and paste the paragraphs from the

essay back into that structure and if

you do that three or four times then you

have a very very tight argument I have a

writing guide on my website at Jordan B

Peterson come under products it's free

it's it's it's just a Word document but

it outlines how to do this imagine if

you're writing so here here's what you

have to get right if you're writing the

whole argument has to make sense as a

whole okay

you can think rather unclearly and still

make an argument that works as a whole

sometimes I read essays written by

intuitive students and the essay works

as a whole like there's a good idea in

but it's very badly written but there's

an idea there so it sort of succeeds at

the highest level but then if

something's written real well it's every

word is the right word every phrase is

the right phrase the phrases are put

into sentences properly the sentences

are organized into paragraphs properly

and you have to edit and every one of

those looks at piano so it has to be

like if one you know pianist listen to

another person playing and one is off

they catch it right yeah right the

person is not going to catch it

yeah so you you're going to that level

of perfection well then I also read

everything out loud

do you seek perfection in that in that

area no but I what I seek I wouldn't say

I seek perfection what I seek is that I

can't do it any better

so I know a book is done when I get

ready bility yeah that's right i maxed

my ability out so if I can't and if I if

I'm at the point where when I'm starting

to edit I'm not sure if it's better then

it's time to quit interesting and I also

often if I'm writing like I'll write

something and then wait like you have to

wait a couple of weeks to look at it

again because often when you're writing

and you reread it you

what you think you wrote because you're

still you still have the ideas in your

head that that are part of the cloud of

ideas and it's not until you forget the

context in some sense that you can

actually see what you wrote and so there

has to be pauses in your writing