# Write It Out

I’ve seen this suggested before, but only half-believed it.

When you’re stumped by a question, write it out. We’re hosting a video game tournament tomorrow, and I was thinking about scoring. I got stumped by some technical problems with the way the bracket would work.

So I decided to burn my weekly Ask MetaFilter question. Except, three-quarters of the way through writing out the question (in great detail), I realized exactly how you solve the problem.

The thing is, if I sat here and tried sketching out how the bracketing would work, I never would gotten it. For some reason, writing it as a question caused me to be able to answer my own question, in a way that starting at it didn’t.

Seriously, try it next time you come across a tough question. It obviously doesn’t work 100% of the time (“How many escalators are in Wyoming?”) But something about writing it out causes the mind to look at it differently. And sometimes that’ll solve your problem!

Also, an Excel hint… How do you do “Best 2 out of 3?” in Excel? There’s no native function to do it. And if you asked me to write code, I’d overthink it and write some contrived thing that would take the best x of y items. But let’s say that cells A3, A4, and A5 (thus A3:A5) contain the three scores, and you want the best (highest) two of the three. =SUM(A3:A5) - MIN(A3:A5) does it. Best two out of three is the same as “All of them, discarding the lowest.” This doesn’t scale: if you wanted the best six out of eight, it’d be much harder to compute. But here, you’re just dropping the lowest.