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On Forced Constraints: 30 Essays in 30 Days (1/30)
Thesis: eating at Kenny and Ziggy's is hard.
Since starting this blog, I’ve run into a challenge.
I’ve allowed the ‘theme’ to be pretty open-ended and refused to adhere to any sort of strict publishing cadence. This has significant benefits: I can write about anything I want whenever inspiration strikes, and I have unlimited time to develop, refine, and iterate upon ideas.
But after starting a few different essays, making sporadic bursts of progress, then getting stuck in a drawn-out cycle of editing and trying to refine the core message of the piece, I realized that this unconstrained method may not serve me at this point in my writing journey. It’s a breeding ground for perfectionism and an inhibitor of development.
So I’ve decided to write 30 essays in 30 days. There won’t be any restrictions on length or subject matter. The only rule is that something gets published every day, regardless of what’s going on with Wallaroo, social obligations, travel, or anything else. Some of these pieces will be good, and some of them will suck. You’ll likely get tired of me around Day 12. That’s okay.
My goal with this challenge is to become a writer. Not someone who thinks about writing, or talks about writing, or writes every now and again, but someone who writes. Writing and publishing every day forces experimentation, exploration, and a penchant for not taking oneself too seriously. My writing could stand to benefit from all of these.
Interestingly, this all underlies a larger truth about forced constraints in other areas of our lives. Most folks are familiar with Parkinson’s Law: “Work expands so as to fill the time allotted for its completion.” This holds a powerful lesson on productivity and effectiveness.
Parkinson’s Law applies not only to work in the literal sense but also to the broader idea of commitment. We live in an era of unprecedented access to options and choices. There are historically low barriers to living anywhere, working any way, dating anyone, and doing anything. We have an endless supply of information and a variety of opinions on each option available to us. This leads to what may be the theme of our generation: the Paradox of Choice. Having a long menu of similarly enticing options leads to stress and analysis paralysis. (Don’t believe me? Try eating at Kenny and Ziggy’s.)
This analysis paralysis leads many of us to exist in a sort of limbo where we are constantly evaluating and bouncing between options without committing to anything. We often idealize freedom as an end in and of itself rather than a means to choose what’s most meaningful to us and commit. But, as David Perell eloquently argues, many of the best things in life are the result of commitment and consistency.
Forced constraints paradoxically enable more freedom. Once you commit to a path, you allow yourself to stop thinking about all the other paths you could be on. All the mental bandwidth that was previously consumed with weighing options can now be directed toward a singular focus on the task at hand.
These are the principles that inspired writing 30 essays in 30 days. It will be hard. There will be some bad writing and questionable ideas (hah). But writing will inevitably become a habit — an action I perform daily. That’s well worth the challenge.
Ultimately, constraints lead to action. And action is living.
(We’re off to a good start. I have unfinished, unpublished essays that I’ve been working on for weeks. This one took an hour.)