Eliot on writing

What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from. And every phrase
And sentence that is right (where every word is at home,
Taking its place to support the others,
The word neither diffident nor ostentatious,
An easy commerce of the old and the new,
The common word exact without vulgarity,
The formal word precise but not pedantic,
The complete consort dancing together)
Every phrase and every sentence is an end and a beginning

—T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding (1942)

Eliot is not only a great poet, he is also a great writing instructor. By example, of course, but sometimes more directly. Here he embeds a masterful little essay on word choice and combinations between the parentheses. And surrounding that esssay he characterizes writing in teleological terms: “the end is where we start from” and “every phrase and every sentence is an end and a beginning.” Which suggests we can start writing from the end or the beginning or any point in between, since we make a beginning and an end with every effort.

Is any of this intentional? I can’t say. But great poetry contains many meanings, some intended by the author, some imputed by the reader. In this case, I vote to impute.

For another example of Eliot on writing, see my earlier post, The Lawyer’s Lament.

Recommended reading for technology investors and entrepreneurs

  • Jerry Kaplan, Startup: A Silicon Valley Adventure (1994). The story of Go Corporation, founded in 1987 to develop one of the first tablet computers. Go had every advantage: Experienced entrepreneurs, brilliant technologists, and $75 million in venture capital, back when $75 million was Uber money.  Yet it failed. A fascinating story in light of the spectacular success of the iPad some twenty years later.
  • C. Gordon Bell, High Tech Ventures: The Guide for Entrepreneurial Success (1991). Bell was one of the engineers who built Digital Equipment Corporation, the disruptive innovator of its day. A useful guide to understanding what it takes to turn a promising technology or product into a successful business—the first does not automatically generate the second.
  • Geoffrey Moore, Crossing the Chasm (1991). The classic analysis of the cycle of technology marketing. Coined the phrase “crossing the chasm” for the difficult task of moving from tech-savvy early adopters to the mainstream market. [Update 5/17/20: Now in its third edition (2014).]
  • Bob Zider, How Venture Capital Works (Harvard Business Review, Nov-Dec 1998). A primer on the venture capital business and the economic realities that drive it.
  • Brad Feld & Jason Mendelson, Venture Deals (2012). An up-to-date compendium of everything you ever wanted to know about venture capital, including valuation, term sheets, and how venture deals are structured. [Update 5/17/20: Now in its fourth edition (2019).]