The best ideas come AFK

Posted: 2022-11-07

I get my best ideas when I’m not working.

This seems paradoxical, but past a point, the more I work on a project the slower it seems to go. I’ll find changes to do, but lose any sort of vision.

If I’m not programming at all, I rarely get good ideas as well.

There appears to be some magic stoichiometric mixture where I work on a project for a while, then force myself to take a break somewhere far away from any keyword for a day or two, the ideas start to roll in at a pace where I can barely keep up to write them down.

It seems important that the break from work is a bit boring. Sometimes it takes a day or two to kick in. Too much entertainment appears to ruin the process.

When it works I’m a hazard in traffic and I’ll struggle to keep up with a conversation, because my mind is so preoccupied with algorithms and designs I barely notice my surroundings.

[ I’m open to the fact this may also just be some weird brain damage from coding since I was 7… Is it normal to be able to move your visual focus – eyes stationary – like a mouse cursor, like even draw selection boxes and vividly imagine context menus ? ]

In many cases I’ll come back and implement half a dozen new features in a few hours. Typing the code is never the hard part, it was just a matter of finding the clarity, of realizing it could be done.

The brain appears to do a lot of background work like this.

It is as though you can load it with a problem by working on it actively for a while, but if you overfeed it with information by working too long, it just stalls. It needs a period of no new active inputs to actually arrive at useful results, so you get the aha in the shower, or while taking a walk.

Given this is is how the mind appears to work, it would be interesting to know how to best spawn a “background task” like this on command or via some procedure, how to best curate the inputs to produce the most beneficial outputs.

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