Stop researching and start doing

Austin Kleon with some sage advice for anyone considering writing a book. It’s all good, but this is especially true:

  1. Stop researching, start writing.

“There’s an awful temptation to just keep on researching,” says David McCollough. “There comes a point where you just have to stop, and start writing. When I began, I thought that the way one should work was to do all the research and then write the book. In time I began to understand that it’s when you start writing that you really find out what you don’t know and need to know.”

Students should take note of this. We lecture them, literally, about the need to research. We say it for good reason, because project ideas need some to be built on knowledge. But my experience is that students research and research and research and often don’t really know what to do with it and what to do next. So more research becomes a form of easily legitimised procrastination. Recognising when to just start designing is an important ability. You can always go back and research what you don’t know once you work out you actually find out what you do know.

And lest you think this is a problem that only writers and students have, plenty of large organisations fail to do anything without requiring more data. They’re often so drowning in data, requirements documents, processes, trying to nail everything down and avoid risk that they fail to come up with anything beyond what they already know.