As stern of a focus-on-simplicity advocate as I am, I still need constant self-reminders to pull me away from the compulsive thoughts of doing too much. When I get a chance to create (anything….programming, writing, drawing, painting, etc.), there will be moments in the creative process where I start thinking about doing far more than what really is good for the product.
I think most would agree that this compulsion is really fear. It’s fear that we aren’t producing to some arbitrary threshold called “enough.” But where did this fear come from? Could it be the media?
While fear usually is the blame of the media, it’s not always the case. If anything, today’s media is telling me to do less and keep it simple. Gordon Ramsay tells me to keep it simple, you stupid scrawny fuck. “Deal or No Deal” proves that attractive women opening suitcases makes for a successful prime-time TV game show. Marc Griffin proposes that hitting a ball with your palm on a round table is the game for the 21st century lifestyle.
Then where does this fear come from?
I think the fear of “enough” is instilled for most when we started essay writing as pre-pubescent teens. I remember every writing exercise came with an expected, if not required, length. Forget the hypothesis, evidence, analysis, and conclusion. It meant nothing if your essay fell short of 5 pages.
If you survived an American public school system (even a very good one), you’ve been there. You’ve double-spaced (sometimes triple-spaced), increased your font from 12 to 13 px, and sucked in your margins a half inch. Then, you threw in some fluff and added some adverbs where they didn’t really help…much.
Essay writing for me started with the fear of not writing enough. Even if my argument was clear to me in 2 pages, I had to find the right combination of line spacing and linguistic sleight-of-hand to turn it into 5 pages of really great bloat.
To their defense, I had excellent teachers growing up. But, it would do some good to remind our youth to think about what you’re doing rather than how much you’re doing. Perhaps a few lessons can be learned even from today’s media.