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From Doktor Frank, quoting Hemingway, or Roald Dahl, or somebody.

The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day you will never be stuck. Always stop while you are going good and don’t think about it or worry about it until you start to write the next day. That way your subconscious will work on it all the time. But if you think about it consciously or worry about it you will kill it and your brain will be tired before you start.

Outstanding advice, but there is a tradeoff.  Being on a roll means being connected to what you are writing right now.  And that connection can lapse after time passes, even just overnight.  Material which was gold last night can turn in to lead the next morning.  A better bridge is to conclude the session with rapid, sketchy, outliny writing and start the next day by fleshing out the overhang to re-establish the flow.


It is about three and a half inches long and mostly black. It has a cap that, when removed, reveals a small silver point, out of the end of which comes black ink. There is a window of clear plastic on the body of the object through which you can monitor how quickly said ink disappears. The general shape is cylindrical. Its diameter is less than one centimeter and fits nicely between the fingers of a woman who is 5’4” tall with slightly oversized hands for her height. The decorative elements are minimal, but there are some advertorial ones. These read: “Pilot. Precise V5. Rolling Ball. Extra Fine.”

The rest of the ode is here.

If you read this piece you might come to believe, as I have, that by spending your days and nights observing the patterns of life in a White Castle you could become enlightened, an artist, a social critic.  And fat too.

7:12 p.m. 8/13/10. How White Castle Explains Aesthetics.

The interior of White Castle #100034 feels a little cramped. It is not a welcoming dining space. The kitchen and staff areas are encased in bulletproof glass. You sit on benches made of lacquered plywood and consume your onion rings ($1.72) on melamine tables the color of muggy summer skies. It is meat-locker cold. The bathrooms are also cordoned off by bulletproof glass and you have to gesture (through more glass) at someone in the kitchen to buzz you in.  Out of the 11 occasions I ate at WC, only once was I asked “to stay or to go?” and given a meal tray; every other time my food came in a paper or plastic sack.

The word crave is everywhere—customers are called Cravers, the menu subdivisions are Sandwich Cravings, Drink Cravings, etc.—and cravings are immediate, short-lived. You satisfy them and then they’re gone.

I personally have never been to a White Castle.  And now I think I must go.

(Toque tweak:  The Browser.)

Here is a paper by Hugo Mialon which examines titles of economics papers and how they correlate with publication success and citations.

This paper examines the impact of titles and other characteristics of published economics articles on the ultimate success of these articles, as measured by their cumulative citations over the six year period following their publication. Interestingly, poetic titles are pivotal to the productivity of published empirical papers, but detri- mental to that of theoretical papers. Another finding of general interest is that the reputation of authors and their institutions counts much more toward the success of empirical papers than toward that of theoretical papers.

Also, here is Hugo’s paper on Torture, whose title wisely eschews poetry.

Do you know the name of the first bank in the United States?  The First Bank of The United States of course.  How about the second bank?  The Second Bank of the United States.  And after that it seems like every time a bank opens in a new place for the first time that bank calls itself First Bank of The New Place. (Try your favorite place.  Here’s mine.)

Why?  Because only the first can be The First.  If people trust banks more the longer they have been around, then in equilibrium the first bank will call itself the First Bank and everyone will know who was first.

Titles of papers have something in common with names of banks.  A paper titled Law and Finance is guaranteed to be the seminal paper in the field because if it were not then that title would have already been taken.  You can go ahead and cite it without actually reading it.  By contrast, you can safely ignore a paper with a title like  Valuation and Dynamic Replication of Contingent Claims in a General Market Enviornmnet Based on the Beliefs-Preferences Guage Symmetry even if you don’t know what any of those words mean.  The title is essentially telling you “Don’t read me.  Instead go and read a paper whose title is simply Valuation of Contingent Claims.  If you have any questions after reading that, you might look into dynamic replication and then beliefs, preferences, and if after all that you still haven’t found what you’re looking for, check here for the lowdown on guage symmetry.”

Two pieces of advice follow from these observations.  First, find the simplest title not yet taken for your papers.  One word titles are the best.  Second, before you get started on a paper, think about the title.  If you can’t come up with a short title for it then its probably not worth writing.

The absolute worst thing you can do with your title is to insert a colon into it. (quiet down beavis!)  As in, Torture: A Model of Dynamic Commitment Problems.  Or Kludged:  Asymptotically Inefficient Evolution.  In the first case you have just ruined a seminal-signaling one-word title by adding spurious specificity.  In the second, you just took an intriguing one-world title and turned it into a yawner.

The second worst kind of title is the question mark title.  “Is the Folk Theorem Robust?”  This says to the reader:  “You picked this up because you want to know if the folk theorem is robust.  Well, if I knew the answer to that I would have told you right away in the title. But look, all I could do is repeat the question, so you can safely assume that you won’t find the answer in this paper.”

(Drawing:  Back in the Snow from

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