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Fighting Out of Formation - a Metaphor for Creativity

You'll see a theme in history - armies that train for "worst case scenario" eventually kick the hell out of armies they don't. Command and control based armies, that only fight well in formation, tend to do really well until their ranks get broken. Then they get slaughtered.

If you look at George Washington or Napoleon Bonaparte, their forces knew how to fight out of formation. That's why they were able to win important battles against larger, more well-equipped forces. They stirred up a bunch of chaos because their forces were able to handle chaos better than the enemy.

I think if you want to do creative endeavors like writing, painting, whatever - you need to learn to fight out of formation. By that, I mean you need to learn how to do it without having "formal expert tone" or being highly polished. Ideally, you can communicate well without necessarily obeying grammar and punctuation. After all, the point of writing is to communicate - the language is supposed to serve you, you're not supposed to serve it.

It takes a lot longer to get into formation if you're out of it than to just fight slightly wild and crazy. Of course, you should learn discipline and how to fight in formation, and should be able to do well in that role. It might even be your bread and butter. But if you're editing every memo you send, every blog post you write, every rallying talk or speech you give - then you're burning a lot of time.

Yes, fighting in formation produces better results much of the time. But sometimes ranks get broken, and then you're screwed if it's the only way you know. I think it's better to learn to fight out of formation before you ever need to. The quality of out-of-formation output is going to be lower at first than in-formation output. You need to learn how to deal with a chaotic messy environment. It doesn't have to be the only way you do things; in fact, sometimes you ought to use proper grammar and punctuation. But you also should be able to handle not doing it, just throwing things together with commas and dashes, slapping some rough thoughts down, and figuring it'll turn out okay. As long as what you're saying is clear enough, you don't have to bow to formality.

Doing the thing in the moment

On Linus Rylander

It is Sunday afternoon and I am drinking tea. Just sitting down to write. When I write, the topic has usually been made clear to me earlier in the day, or perhaps the day before.

But not today. These writing sessions are always the most interesting, because of a few reasons.

As you start, you have no idea what’s going to come out of your fingers. But you don’t want to go on with meaningless ramblings, so you force yourself to enter into a sort of flow state very quickly. You get better at it with practice.

Two days ago I stumbled upon a thread on Quora about writing advice. Someone said that you should never write about things you thought up beforehand. Everything you write should be in-the-moment writing, because everything that isn’t is a fabrication of ego.

First, I disagree with the use of the word ego, but I know what he means and I understand what he’s saying. I don’t agree though. All writing isn’t made equal.

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