Notes on The Calculus of Grit”

Photo by Shubham Sharan on UnsplashPhoto by Shubham Sharan on Unsplash

I recently got around to reading Venkatesh Rao’s essay about his understanding of working towards mastery.

In it, he tries to define the intrinsically measurable aspects of grit, settling on reworking, referencing, and releasing.


Reworking challenges the notion that we need to work 10,000 hours at something to achieve master, and instead argues that it really should be the time of refining the work that matters.

This is a point that speaks to something I’ve been considering a lot. I used to believe that writing quickly was the goal, but lately, I think slowing down and crafting the story and sentences is far more rewarding.

(And as he says in his answer to the Quora question above, the more you do it, the more you can see the difference in the quality of other people’s writing.)


Referencing is all about building on your own knowledge. For Rao, he notices how much he references his own blog, but I think this can be extended to building on any previous self-knowledge or experience (however, having a reference like notes or a blog probably helps).

I think this is interesting, because I think it connects to my desire to build a digital garden on here to connect all the pieces. However, what I’d really like to understand is how this carries over to fiction writing (I don’t have an answer for this yet).


And finally, releasing is about committing to the work, whether putting it out in the world (early and often) or simply sharing it with others.

This idea is an important one to understand, because often we don’t show our work because of fear, but in fact, sharing our work and creativity is a generous act. It may not matter to everyone, but it might matter to someone.

Measure your progress

To apply these three variables to your writing practice:

All you have to do is look for an area in your life where a lot of rework is naturally happening, maintain an adequate density of internal referencing to your own past work your area, and release often enough that you can forget about timing the market for your output.

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