A helpful practice for making progress on one’s action-relevant beliefs is learning by writing. But many EAs—especially university students such as ourselves—need a bit more structure and accountability to write consistently. Reading is comfortable but writing is hard and scary—we both recognized the value of writing long before we made a habit of it. What’s worked for us, and what we hope may work for you, is starting an “EA writing group.”
The EA Forum is a great platform for sharing one’s writing, but writing for the forum can feel like a high bar and the topics one might gain the most from writing about—points of confusion, personal decisions, or unpolished ideas—might not feel like a good fit. A writing group can be an ideal environment for sharing uncertain, personal, or messy thoughts, and building a habit of writing.
What might an EA writing group look like?
Get a group of ~2-10 people, and have everyone write 1-3 pages weekly or bi-weekly. Then meet virtually or in-person to read and comment on each other’s writing (on Google Docs) for ~1 hour.
Possible modifications to the structure include:
- Have everyone write about the same topic, question, or reading
- Have a discussion afterwards (e.g. have 1-on-1s with people whose ideas you want to hear more about)
- For university organizers: add a writing component to your in-depth fellowship
What should I write about?
- Whatever seems most interesting or salient to you (e.g. pros and cons of a career decision, an idea you are uncertain about, an argument you would like to get on paper or condense, etc.)
- Decision-relevant topics or “cruxes”
- For example, “claims that are important if true, and might be true” (from Holden)
- For inspiration, here are some example pieces from our EA writing group
I want to be in an EA writing group, but I’m not sure who to start one with!
If you’re interested in joining a virtual EA writing group, fill out this form by Friday April 22nd! We will pair you with a small group of people who have a similar level of EA experience.
Our experience doing an EA writing group
At Swarthmore College we’re part of a group independent study (thanks to Koji Flynn-Do) on cause prioritization with 11 students. Each week we do about 3 hours of reading and write a 1-2 page “take” or response. Once per week we have a 2 hour class where we spend the first hour reading and giving feedback on each other’s writing and spend the second hour doing 1-on-1s with the people who wrote about what we most want to discuss.
Please let us know if you have any questions or thoughts about this, or if this post inspired you to start a group of your own :)