June 28, 2007
I recently saw an interview with the Swedish author Jan Guillou. He had some interesting thoughts about creativity that I think applies to all pretty much an creative craft.
He is extremely structured and always does his writing in a predefined time box, when the time is up (triggered by an alarm clock or similar) he just stops typing, right in the middle of the sentence he was just typing.
I think there are two lessons learned here. I am myself a big fan of using time boxing to boost creativity and to force myself to eliminate the not so important stuff and focus on the essence, the things that will lead to actual progress. This holds both for writing, coding and meetings.
The second lesson is to stop right in the middle of an unfinished task. Doing that will help you to:
- know exactly what you should do next (leaves no room for writer’s block or procrastination)
- keep the context of what you just worked on and more easily “boot the system” and get into the creative flow that you had when you stopped
It reminds me of an advice Kent Beck gave in his book Test-Drived Development, in which he states that you should always stop coding with a failing test. This is the exact same idea; knowing what to start with when you come in to work the next morning, more easily loading in the “context into RAM” and forcing your self to become productive immediately.
Another, fairly controversial comment that I remember from the interview with Jan Guillou was:
“Inspiration is for amateurs.”
Although a bit arrogant, I think it is true and something that holds for most creative crafts. Inspiration is overrated, what matters is showing up and doing the work, inspiration will usually follow.
In the words of Pablo Picasso:
“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.”