Are you an archaeologist or an architect?

Future of Thinking

Over the past 13 days, I’ve been running a writing experiment (you may have noticed). Every weekday, I’ve given myself two hours each morning to write and publish one essay. I’d say I’ve spent 20% of my allotted writing time thinking about what to write and 80% actually writing. Historically, this would have been the reverse. My desire for perfection has always stifled my creativity. I wanted to be able to neatly package up my niche to my audience and send it to their inbox wrapped in a beautiful bow. I know, I know. I was trying to box myself in…inadvertently going against pretty much everything I stand for. If I were going to take writing seriously, something needed to change. Now, I wasn’t a different person 13 days ago. But my mindset certainly was.

13 days ago, I was an architect; today I’m an archaeologist.

The architect designs the building before construction can begin. The design may be adapted along the way, but in general, the building follows the design and the intended outcome is crystal clear before construction starts. In contrast, the archaeologist gradually makes discoveries, which ultimately lead her to an unexpected place. In any explorative creative process, if you design before you discover, you are shooting yourself in the foot.

Before my writing experiment, my inner perfectionist was puppeteering me, awkwardly architecting my style, my topics and even my grammar with the aim of creating something I would eventually deem “perfect” and worthy of my audience’s time. Except, of course, that never happened. When I reversed my mindset and started thinking like an archaeologist, I found myself embracing the process of digging up hidden gems from my mind that I didn’t even know existed. I have to say that I’ve found being an archaeologist WAY more enjoyable than being an architect; rather than trying to fit my words into a mould of what I should write, I give myself permission to write whatever I feel inspired by that day. Not only this, but I see every day as a new opportunity to experiment: with form, with content, with the time of publication…even with whether I drink a cup of coffee before entering writing mode!

Controlling inputs vs outputs

The main difference between an architect and an archaeologist is that the architect focuses on controlling the outputs (a futile endeavour), while the archaeologist focuses on controlling the inputs and embracing whatever outputs appear. Throughout the past couple of weeks, I’ve set myself one simply daily input: publish. While I don’t know the outcome of taking this daily action over the course of 100 days, I do know that I will discover unexpected things about myself, my audience and the world.

In the spirit of building in public, I’m actually losing subscribers (very much to be expected when you’re publishing daily…). But rather than lamenting the loss of subscribers who don’t want me rambling in their inbox every day (understandable), I’m motivated by the increase in engagement, views and generous feedback from people who really resonate with the topics I’m discussing. Every single one means the world!

Even more that this external validation, I’m motivated by the momentum I’m building as an archaeologist. Let’s just say, the product people behind Snapstreaks knew what they were doing. Every single time I hit publish, I’m learning. I’m learning what I get energy from writing about, what my audience resonates with, how my natural writing voice feels, and a million other things.

How to become an archaeologist

If you have a goal but find yourself plagued by architect tendencies, here are some mindset shifts to embrace your inner archaeologist:

February 14, 2024