Caleb Schoepp

Stating the Obvious

Published April 22, 2022

A common excuse people use for not writing is that they don’t have anything insightful to say. Or in other words they don’t want to state the obvious. I think this is a poor excuse and that more people should write about obvious things1.

Setting aside the likelihood that you do have insightful things to share, here are three reasons why stating the obvious is a good idea.

First, obviousness is a relative concept, not absolute. This means that what is obvious to you is not necessarily obvious to others. The clearest example of this is your past self. For example, it is obvious to me what the differences are between static and dynamically typed programming languages — but this wasn’t obvious to me a few years ago before I had experience programming. Topics like this are a sweet spot for teaching people by accident. One man’s obvious observation is another man’s clear and insightful tutorial.

Second, you often need to work through a lot of obvious concepts in order to arrive at something insightful. Put another way, insight comes from chaining together obvious components into a novel order or structure. It’s sort of like mathematics. You can start with obvious concepts like addition and build them up into more complex concepts like multiplication or exponentiation.

Third, insight is not the end all be all of writing. There are a plethora of reasons to write besides communicating a novel insight: to entertain the reader with a story; to improve in the craft of writing and communicating your ideas (regardless of their quality); to record you perspective at a point in time; and many more.

If you think something is obvious then maybe you should write about. I would love to hear what you have to say.

  1. Inspiration for this post came from Dynomight’s post on creative nonfiction training exercises ↩︎

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