I'm motivated by scaffolding

March 22, 2024

At the start of last year (2023) I embarked on a creative challenge: complete a project every week for a year. I called it 52weeks. I launched a Substack as public motivation to stick to my goal. It was incredibly rewarding, and I learned some important lessons about how I get things done.

“I don't need time, I need a deadline.” - Duke Ellington

As I started the year and completed my first few projects, I told a few of my friends and housemates about it, and they encouraged me to go for it. I had a backlog of projects in my mind, and more kept coming as I churned through them. I built momentum and felt a dopamine rush each Sunday as I delivered on my promise.

One thing that surprised me was that I enjoyed writing up my progress each week just as much as actually doing the projects. I really looked forward to reflecting on my process. I felt a new goofy, nerdy, curious, and playful part of my personality emerge through my writing.

In fact, this wasn't the first time I'd experienced this kind of rush. I first bought simonwisdom.com in 2014, and set up a Wordpress site. I used it then to post a bunch of small creative projects - photos, travel maps, poems. I found it really motivating to have a blank canvas to fill up with my ideas, and it didn't really matter if anyone was reading it.

Motivation works in many ways, and I think we all owe ourselves to figure out what makes us tick. For me having a deadline and making a commitment is the best way to get things done. I think this works for two reasons:

  • I notice I often say to people that "I'm someone who sticks to my word", which, ironically, makes it a kind of self-fulfilling positive feedback loop. Making a commitment, to myself, to my friends, or to 'the world', activates that value of mine and increases my motivation
  • I have far too many ideas to keep track of. Over the years I've tried keeping lists, but they always overflow and then I change systems and start all over again. I start many of them. But pushing things past the finish line is hard when there's a new shiny idea to start on instead! My true challenge is choosing wisely how to best channel my time and energy. I find having a deadline as a 'forcing function' provides the right amount of pressure to get through that last 20% grind

So with that in mind, I'm repurposing my domain to be this blog. I don't think I'll be too prescriptive on how often I aim to post (I've already committed to one creative project a month this year in the spiritual successor to 52weeks, which is 12months), but I'd like to write something at least every few weeks. I'm eager to see how my writing and thinking might evolve over time.