Scott Young writes about creating under there’s-no-turning-back constraints by forcing himself to only focus on one project every 30 days:

“The triggering point for a change in me was realizing that the thing I lacked wasn’t a good idea—but the ability to finish. So I changed my aim: for my next project, I would set tight constraints and finish it, no matter what.”

We’ve seen examples of this in folklore, Young points out. Like when Ulysses tied himself to his ship’s mast to prevent himself from succumbing to the Siren’s Song. Sometimes the “mast” is your desk and the “siren” is Twitter. Those who employ this strategy often say they are “burning the boats” – a reference to Spanish conqueror Hernán Cortes burning his boats so his men weren’t tempted to turn back. It’s an extreme measure, but one that produces results.

Among the subscribers to this mindset, Louis C.K. prefers to do away with his previously existing material every year (NSFW). “Get rid of all your best weapons,” he says, “then you have to get good.”

  • Tannia Obregón

    😀 Now it’s perfect! I’m loving these short articles

  • Flora

    I am reading “The Paris WIfe”, about Hemingway and his first wife. Your final comment reminds me abut what happened to Hemingway in the 20’s. His wife took ALL his work-notebooks, sketches, typed manuscripts, ALL OF IT, and threw it in a suitcase to bring to him while on assignment as a surprise. The suitcase was stolen right out from under her seat. ALL his work was gone (no copies or computers back then!). He was devastated. But because he had to just go forward and start fresh, he got really good. Not only was he finally published with his fresh work and style, he wrote “The Sun Also Rises”, his first breakthrough novel. Tragic loss forced him to be reborn creatively. (Love these shorter pieces, BTW! Nice!)

  • Ashley Riordan

    A related quote from Annie Dillard:

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