Dear Old Me / Dear Young Me - On Novelty

 


Dear Old Me,

So - you wrote recently about how "all the answers become distractions." What did you mean by that? It sounded good, and I wonder if it's what I'm dealing with?

As I get better with coding, I'm constantly getting new ideas. Ideas come faster than I can build them - and I just can't keep up.

Are you still dealing with that challenge? 

~Alishah

P.S. Did you ever finish Zinglok-725?

--

Dear Young Me,

The problem never goes away. Someone I/you (we?) admire called us creatively erratic - and while it stung to hear, it was only partially accurate.

The thing is, you'll eventually learn to manage it in a few different ways:

  1. You'll get better at identifying what intrigues you about the idea. Ideas will come to you as massive projects - but if you spend the time to dissect it down to the trivial bit you'll usually come to the conclusion that:
    1. the problem you're interested in has already been resolved, and the rest is just an interesting implementation that you're not interested in;
    2. the problem is actually not that interesting to you, but the implementation is; more on this in a moment...
    3. the problem is all that you're interested in. Just build that as an exercise and move on;
    4. the problem & the implementation are both really interesting; This is more rare, and not too different from (b).

  2. You'll sit on ideas longer (this goes for 1b and 1d). John Lennon once gave George Harrison a song writing tip: finish the lyrics in one sitting, don't stop mid-way. Getting yourself back to the same mood is impossible and the song will suffer.

    You'll learn to apply this same principle to the things you are passionate about that don't take much time - and you'll use the inverse of this for the things that take a lot of time. In other words, if the novelty wears off and never comes back - you'll likely just move on from it. But if that same passion keeps returning, then it's likely an idea worth pursuing.

  3. You'll one day hear on a podcast about productivity that you should "swap nuance for novelty." Novelty is a great distraction. It's attractive because it's new, different. If you look for nuance in what you are doing, you can recapture that passion.

  4. Is the idea interesting enough to keep your attention when it starts to feel like a chore? Success can become a chore. It requires maintenance, updates, attention. The novelty of success wears off. It's like a rock band having their first chart-topping song. 10 albums later, fans will expect that first hit at every concert. Successful implementations of ideas are no longer yours, but of the "fans". You become beholden (and, just a heads up... you will experience this first hand. It will be a rough experience. You'll get through it.)  Don't get so worried of success that you completely discourage yourself from ever doing anything - but keep an eye out for the ideas you don't want to maintain.
Here's the danger though: when you filter all your ideas through this criteria, you'll grow frustrated. You love creating. In fact, you love being "creatively erratic." You have a need to create and keep that creative muscle strong. What you'll find that works are small, quick, iterative projects that lets you move quickly. Things you can do in 30 minutes when you're feeling inspired (kind of like this series of letters.)

- Alishah

P.S. Zinglok-725 isn't done. It's an idea that fits into a 5th category: too beautiful for this world.

Popular

Let's Clear Up The Ambiguity!

FAQs for a Software Engineering Hiring Manager

7 Steps to Writing an Amazing Resume

7 Steps to Building your Portfolio MVP

On Systems Debt