Monday Rules (Part 8)

Rule 8: Don't try to create and analyze at the same time. They're different processes.

Indeed they are.

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The first is our old friend the ABORTIVE ATTEMPT. You just start.  You don't worry about making it good or even about creating a "finished" product.  If you're smart, you tell the universe that what you're about to spit out is worthless crap anyway — an ABORTIVE ATTEMPT.

Once you've got that out of the way, it's time for GESTALT.


If you're just now joining us, GESTALT is German for "shape," and in English it has filtered through psychology to come to mean the "shape of the whole." In Lichtenbergianism, you step back from your ABORTIVE ATTEMPT and examine it. Can you see it in terms of what might be missing? Now that you've plopped out this crap — as you told the universe you would — what would make it better?

But we're not done. There's a third step: SUCCESSIVE APPROXIMATION.

Back in my college days, one of my fellow theatre majors was a hair stylist. He participated in hair styling competitions, and he told how at one of them he pretended to be stuck: the model's hair seemed to be finished, but something was missing. He stepped back, pondered the situation, and then in a dramatic aha! moment he snatched a flower from the convenient vase on his table, stuck it into the coif, et voilà! He won.

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We do not step back into GESTALT, then lunge forward and finish the painting or poem or sonata. (It could happen, but I wouldn't place any bets on it if I were you.) No, we go back to our painting/poem/sonata and tweak it.  We nudge it to the next step, little bit by little bit, GESTALT after GESTALT after SUCCESSIVE APPROXIMATION.


Eventually you will arrive at ABANDONMENT, one way or another, but the surest way to make it tough to get there is to try "create and analyze at the same time."  Make a mess; clean it up; clean it up betterer.