The pendulum

Late in 2023 I started working on paper to create simple mind–maps around the individual ideas that go into my writing here. Call it nostalgia if you wish, but there’s something delightful about a nice pen and nice paper. I find I have a flurry of bat-like ideas around the central idea. Not all of them make it to the paper; Some are left to flutter right back out of the belfry.

After a while, the remaining bats settle down to roost as my scribbling sputters to a halt. Then there’s a bit of time where I pause (exactly how much varies greatly, sometimes I even surrender, get up and move away from the tablet) before I feel I can shift to the digital realm to begin the writing. That period of pause though is a straight-up struggle. Every time.

“Divergence” refers to opening up your senses and taking in new sources of information from the outside world, such as at the start of a new project. “Convergence” refers to shutting off sources of distraction and narrowing your focus to arrive at an end result.

Together, these two stages form the backbone of creative work going back millennia. In any field, we move like a pendulum back and forth between these two states of mind. Once you learn to see the pattern in your own work, you’ll understand how to flow with the tide of information rather than swim against it.

~ Tiago Forte from,


It’s not clear to me that— Actually, no, I’m sure that I cannot intentionally switch from the divergent part of the work to the convergent. I just try to stay in the pause. Eventually, assuming I don’t give up and walk away, the writing feels easier than continuing to think about it. I often wonder why I keep writing on a schedule. It’s torturous. But now I’m thinking that I may have stumbled backwards into a way to push myself more quickly through to the convergent part of writing: If it has a due-date, then there’s a built-in increasing urgency to shut up, sit down… and wait, until the writing is the easiest path.