JyriAnd Blog

Magic of the Organizing Principle

Every time I sit down to write (or do anything creative for that matter) I feel this deep sense of confusion, desperation, and bewilderment. I know what I want to write, but not how to write it down. Ideas, facts, stories, and arguments float around in my mind, all raising their hands and demanding attention.

I write one, two, three drafts. These look promising on the day I wrote them. On the next day, though, I realize how much the drafts suck. So I start again.

It feels like being lost in a familiar place. As if I’m walking around in my neighborhood, not knowing where to go. I know the streets, the houses, the sidewalks, and every corner that I pass — but I walk in circles and for the life of me, can’t find my home.

Over time, I have learned to accept this feeling of being utterly lost. I have learned that it’s unavoidable. It is part of the creative process, a journey, that will eventually lead me to the magical moment of stumbling upon the Organizing Principle.

What is the Organizing Principle?

It is a hidden thread that ties the tangling pieces together into a one whole. It is a gravitational center, an attractor, that pulls the stuff into a coherent system. It is like a Sun in the middle of the Solar System.

What would happen if the Sun would suddenly disappear? The planets would drift off into the dark and lonely space. There would be no system anymore. Without the Sun, there would be no life on Earth; and in the same way, without the organizing principle, the separate parts of your work will be lifeless and sterile. Once you weave them together using the organizing principle, they will come to life.

Our solar system began as a big cloud of dust. It took 600 million years to form the Sun and the planets. And it will take some time (hopefully not 600 million years) for you to figure out the organizing principle of your work-in-progress. Our ideas, thoughts, notes, images — the cosmic dust — needs an attractor.

How to find it?

There is only one thing you have to do. Work on your article, essay, book, novel, painting, or anything else — work on it until you feel stuck. And when you get stuck, turn away, forget about it. Do something else. (That’s why it’s advisable to have a backlog of unfinished projects — when you get stuck on one, you can turn to another).

Come back to it a few days later. Work. Get stuck. Turn away. Don’t force yourself. Just forget about it.

And then, one day, when you are walking around with your dog, taking a shower, or driving to work, the organizing principle will arrive. You will understand what you were missing all this time, and you will want to facepalm yourself, because it’s so obvious.

This moment will feel magical. And when you sit down to work on your project, you will do more in one hour, than you did in weeks — all because you now know the organizing principle.