Subject: Re: Rob, watcha got on this one?
From: (Rob Warnock)
Date: Sun, 21 Jan 2007 06:32:08 -0600
Newsgroups: comp.lang.lisp
Message-ID: <>
Ken Tilton  <> wrote:
| Next phenomenon. I call it "refusing the jump", as in the equestrian 
| thing. When I come to a sticky problem, I can be incapacitated for days, 
| find all sorts of excuses to do all sorts of things other than tackle 
| the problem. Once I dig in things go as quickly as I knew they would, 
| but even knowing the phenomenon I find I still refuse jumps.
| This is a burn-out thing, btw. In the past hard problems just made me 
| downshift and get on the throttle.
| Got anything on this one?

Dunno, maybe...

First, from your description, it sounds to me like you're not so
much "balking at a jump" per se [though if you keep describing it
that way to yourself you might create a self-fulfilling prophecy]
as "seeing too much" and becoming overwhelmed by the vision. This
happens to me quite often as I get into a problem: I start exploring
the issues/contraints/available-degrees-of-freedom/whatever, and
the search tree of possible avenues starts to explode, and *whammo!*,
pretty soon the whole thing has assumed monstrous proportions and
I can't do *anything* since it seems that I'd have to do *everything*
all at once. "Overwhelmed by seeing too much" is one way to put it;
"lost in the fog of possibilities" is another.

In any event, when that happens the approach that seems to work
for me is to persistently but gently keep "leaning into it",
while having patience in the knowledge that this is *not* going
to get done all at once, or even today, or maybe even this week.
In words we have both heard elsewhere before, "take the middle way,
not too tight, not too loose". Neither beat yourself over the
head for not being able to push the entire thingy to completion
in one Herculean push of hacker energy (which probably *has* worked
for you, as it has for me, so many times in the past but now doesn't
work any more as the problems have gotten a whole lot bigger [and
as we've gotten older!]) nor slack off completely.

Said another way, the trick is to relax, really relax, *A LOT*,
yet while not giving up on the ultimate goal even for an instant.

I find that if I do this, just nibble away at it in small bits,
over & over, *not* giving in to the temptation of feeling guilty
about not trying for "one big push" [which I already known won't work]
*nor* getting lost 100% with procrastination distractions [though
procrastinating up to 95% often *does* happen!], if I can just
bring my mind back to the problem for even a little bit each
time I have an opportunity to, over & over, maybe making little
notes on yellow stickies or in "~/NOTES/NOTE.whatever" files, then,
more often than not, after a while of this [it may be hours, days,
or weeks] something suddenly starts to crystalize out of the fog.
"Hmmm... If I pick this choice, that means I *don't* need that one.
If I use this little state machine here, then all that other stuff
can get called by the edge transitions." Whatever. If you're into
quantum physics analogies you might say it's a collapse of the
wave function of the superposition of all of the possible solutions
(and non-solutions!) of the problem into the one solution you
*are* going to use. And then suddenly, almost magically it seems,
after *way* too long of (apparently) "producing nothing", the code
starts to flow, and I discover I'm "over the hump" and it's all
downhill from there.  Note: *NOT* "all done" -- there may be
"miles & miles" to go still before that -- but "over the hump".
It's not *A!* *BIG!* *PROBLEM!* any more, it's just a problem,
or maybe even "just a bunch of boring work" left to crank out.

Hope that helps...


p.s. The one problem with this method is that that *looonnng*
period of apparently producing nothing tends to scare managers,
especially since after all the radio & T.V. investment ads everyone
now knows that "past performance is no guarantee of future return".

Rob Warnock			<>
627 26th Avenue			<URL:>
San Mateo, CA 94403		(650)572-2607