Pauses are part of the process

When I get an idea, I go into "creative mode" for weeks to months at a time.

I'll build and build, ebb and flow, hypothesize and experiment iteratively, week after week.

These are exciting times when I feel alive.

Eventually, I reach a point where I feel stuck. Inertia carries me forward for a bit. But I feel the friction increase, my drive gears disengage, and I start to coast.

I start to over-engineer. My thinking becomes confused and over-complicated. I find myself lost down rabbit holes.

I eventually feel stuck.

I used to interpret this feeling as a sign that either:

  • I had failed
  • The idea was bad or no longer worth pursuing

But neither was true.

What I experienced was neither a statement about me nor a statement about the idea. It was a statement about the process.

Everything breathes.

  • Every wave that comes in must also recede back into the ocean.
  • Every breath inhaled is also exhaled.
  • Every ending is also a beginning.

Nature enforces equilibrium and abhors a vacuum. There's always something you can do. But it's unhealthy to do the same thing forever or be a passive participant in your own story.

There are no straight lines in nature. There's no such thing as progressing from start to finish in a straight line when creating something new. The detours, failures, and redirects are all part of the process.

Over the years, I've learned to recognize these "pause periods" as an important clue that it's time to switch gears.

Growth has three phases:

  • Create something new.
  • Decompose and repurpose something old.
  • Observe and evaluate what is.

I've converted this into a set of rules about how to approach life:

  • Do good when you can.
    • Using diet as an example, doing good would be eating more healthy food, drinking more water.
  • If you can't do good, do less bad.
    • Not eating much healthy food? Eat smaller portions of unhealthy food or lower-calorie equivalents.
  • If that isn't an option, observe and measure.
    • Not willing to change what you eat? Track calories.

There's always something I can do to step toward a better version of myself.

The pause periods are a sign that a transition is due.

  • Feel stuck?
    • Take a break, get a fresh perspective, then refactor and consolidate.
  • Feel frustrated? Don't see any messes to clean up?
    • Great! What would a better version of this thing look like?
  • Feel lost? Don't know what to do?
    • Step back. Acknowledge what I've accomplished. How do I feel?


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