Creative results come from creative processes

A friend of mine has been writing for a long time. He’s made a living out of writing captivating things.

Not too long ago he began struggling with procrastination, but found a technique to overcome it that I want to share here.

He told me about an article he read where George RR Martin, author of A Song of Ice and Fire — otherwise known as Game of Thrones — wrote all of his books using only a DOS word processor. If you’re not familiar with what DOS is: it’s an ancient computer system that doesn’t have a lot of features or bells and whistles. And the app Martin uses to write was created in the 1970s.

Why does Martin do this, my friend thought, what could be the benefit of using antiquated technology to write when there are newer and far more helpful tools and technologies available?

The answer is that by using an outdated, unconnected system and feature-less software, Martin is able to focus on the craft itself rather than possible distractions.

So this friend of mine started looking for old computers that he could use himself.

He started with apps that were touted as distraction-free, but he found that the temptation to hop on the internet or to check Facebook or Twitter were too overwhelming.

He eventually realized that he had an old iPhone, one of the first ever launched some years ago, sitting in the bottom of a dresser. One day he picked up the phone and wrote as much as he could using the built-in Notes app.

Because the phone didn’t have any of the latest apps or software installed, it was easier to avoid distraction. And because the device wasn’t synced with his existing notes on Dropbox, Evernote, or iCloud, he was forced to work with original thought.

An unexpected benefit he told me about this approach was that, because the phone was really old, he wasn’t worried about it being snatched or dropped while he wrote during his daily, hour-long, commute.

Interestingly enough, he felt freer in his writing than he had ever felt before with the phone and its limitations.

Whenever he got home at the end of the day he would email himself the work he did on the old phone, edit on his computer, and then submit the work to his publisher.

He’d have to delete completed work from the old phone to make room for new ideas to work on, keeping his content fresh and exciting.

Too often we worry about getting the right tool for the job, but that behavior is often more limiting and creativity-stifling than if we were to find a easier tool that enables us to simply focus on the work at hand.

When we think of constraints in the world around us or the tools we use, how often do we fail to see how those constraints can actually benefit our ideas and work?

Like using an old, unconnected computer or phone to write, or working with broken pencils and scraps of paper, some times the best work and most creative ideas are the result of working not with the latest and greatest technology, but by making do with what we have.