On Precision

Chai Cardamom Old Fashioned

ASK ME MY FAVORITE COCKTAIL, AND I’LL SAY THE OLD FASHIONED.

My consummate food, nigiri.

Without simplicity, there cannot be complexity.

The simplest things are often the most difficult to master.

If you have not trained your palate, all the world’s techniques and recipes are just more to hide behind.

When, as with a three-ingredient cocktail, there is no room to hide, the key is: Don’t try to hide.

They say, “You need a gimmick to survive.” Abstain nonetheless.

They say, “People here are shallow.” I say they’re thirsty for something real.

Instead of distracting me with a dozen garnishes, give me your realest thing and ask me to look deeper.

– – –

TAKE THE OLD FASHIONED, FOR INSTANCE.

To make this sublime cocktail, first learn to distinguish between one and two dashes of bitters.

When you can distinguish between one and two dashes, learn to distinguish between one and two drops.

Until then, you have not mastered the Old Fashioned.

Know how to control power with dilution, but without thinness; to temper bitterness with sweetness, but not too sweet.

Not every drink should be freezing cold. Know why.

This is what is meant by precision.

– – –

IT IS THE SAME WITH WRITING.

To write meaningfully, first have meaningful thoughts.

Then, learn to say exactly what you mean.

And mean exactly what you say.

If you don’t, all the world’s words won’t make your writing great. You’ll still be writing blind.

But if you see clearly, you’ll use fewer words to say more.

Some of the most beautiful writing I know have been from translated works and non-native speakers. But they had beautiful thoughts and knew exactly what they wanted to say.

For those of whom this is true, precision is only natural. But it is still a process.

To write something beautiful, you first need beautiful thoughts.

To write beautifully, you first need beautiful thoughts.

To write beautifully, first you need beautiful thoughts.

To write well, first you need beautiful thoughts.

To write well, first you need meaningful thoughts.

To write meaningfully, first have meaningful thoughts.

As with the Old Fashioned, you may have to adjust it a hundred times. But by the hundredth time, you’ll have learned to control every drop and degree, every dot and iota.

This is what is meant by precision.

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