I’ve been reflecting on how a lot of changes can happen at once, without you noticing, until suddenly you do. One such change that my main creative stumbling block shifted from having too few ideas to having too many. I’m in a whole new regime regarding what limits my progress.
There’s been much discussion of how humanity has moved rather quickly from information scarcity to information abundance with the advent of the internet. Pre-internet, the hardest part of any research project used to be tracking down the information you need, and now the hardest part is filtering out all the information you don’t need.
On a smaller scale, in my own little world, something similar happened with the information I generate.
Starting out, I typically had fewer, bigger ideas for projects (blog posts, comics, novels). Most possibilities didn’t seem worth my time. I’d only jump in when an idea wouldn’t let me sleep because I couldn’t think about anything else. I’d start, and then I’d spend a few years on it.
One project consumed all my time until it was done, and then I was open for business again. Waiting for the next one. I wished that excitement would a little more often. But only a little.
As I got better and finding ideas and looser about what I was willing to spend time, I got my wish. Briefly.
Very soon I overshot. With the practice and excitement that came from finishing a few projects, I produced voluminous notes, memos, drafts, and brainstorms. The brief window of feeling creatively fulfilled and prolific ended when my systems broke down under the weight of my production.
The old problem of having enough ideas was replaced by the problem of filtering them. It’s easy to decide what to do when you can count your choices on one hand. But when the first stage of the idea pipeline (generation) was unblocked, the next (selection) got jammed. My publication rate slowed to a standstill.
When the first limiting factor was eliminated, I was able to run up to the next barrier. In my projects, the limiting factor now is
- being able to choose what to work on and
- produce enough of whatever the granular work-unit is — copy, drawings or code.
More generally, every time you reach a goal, you need to overhaul your system to adapt to that success.
If you liked this, you might like the rest of this series: