Lost at Sea? Good.

There’s a step in the creative process when you reach a point of near-panic, unmoored from well-known places, where your understanding of the problem outstrips your knowledge of solutions. You’re lost at sea, surrounded by gliding monsters. Then, one by one, you chart the stars.

This is not a failure of the creative process, this IS the creative process. You need to trust that if you methodically explore your surroundings, then eventually you’ll find a landmark. From then each new solution snowballs to the next.

The impossible problem becomes familiar ground.

There’s a fear of this moment in the deep unknown, and many teams tentatively inch one step at a time – or wait for others to blaze ahead. You’ll never get lost that way, but you’ll always be last to the feast.

I sometimes tell designers that our job is to be the explorers mapping the dark caves of an unknown mountain, then come out having chased down dead ends for weeks to finally say “we found it, there’s gold if you go this way!” Then we draw a careful map of how to get there. Its called a design document.

Be careful when exporing and follow good leads. Don’t just blindly blunder around in the dark. Don’t fear it either. If you went in with a clear sense of direction and a process for mapping the unknown, you will eventually find your way back.

And yes, I’m writing this because I just finally found my way back to “land” in one of my sideprojects. All the tension and stress of the unknown of just a week ago is gone now, and I couldn’t be more excited.

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