Minimum Viable Utility
Hemingway used a soothing mantra for whenever he had creative blocks. He would say to himself, don’t worry, you have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write on true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know, and then go on from there. His advice has been adopted by countless artists around the globe, from famous makers whose work you see every day, to anonymous creators you’ve never heard of. It really does work. You have to think of it as your minimum viable output. This approach, however, doesn’t work for everyone.
MINIMUM VIABLE UTILITY — Your personal quota of problem solving for intellectual execution
Writing down one true sentence simply doesn’t deliver the hit of creative satisfaction you get from really biting into a more substantial mental task. To build on his concept, then, here’s a more robust way to think about it. What if, instead of writing one true sentence, you solved one real problem? Not necessarily world peace or income inequality or ozone layer depletion, although, if you are feeling ambitious, knock yourself out. But one real problem meaning, using your brain for real stretches of time to unravel your own brain cramp. Figuring out how you really feel about something. Overcoming the fear of trying out a new theme. Filling the gaps in your knowledge. Working out an inner grudge that’s been bothering you. Following your curious intuitive sense and seeing where it leads. Purging your anger into a safe gasket. Framing a failure into some kind of lesson. Calling bullshit on something that offended your sense of order. Expressing your opinion about an issue that’s not okay with you. Each of these are real problems worth solving through the creative process.
What I love about this tool is, each effort of minimum viable utility builds momentum. You solve one problem, and suddenly you’re inspired and motivated to solve another. And another. And another. And before you know it, you have piles of interesting, valuable ideas. The intoxication of flexing your intellectual muscles can't be beat.
Let us paraphrase the literary legend. Don’t worry, you have always created before and you will create now. All you have to do is solve the realest problem that you know, and then go on from there. What story do you tell yourself when you’re not feeling motivated to create?
Unravel your brain cramp
Deliver a hit of creative satisfaction
Build momentum in your daily routine
Coach yourself out of writer’s block