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Forced constraints

David Gane
David Gane
1 min read

Earlier this morning, I was trying to write a post on why I keep changing the look of this blog, but it became unruly. I had too many ideas and no real sense of how to organize it.

I eventually abandoned it, but wondered if adding constraints to my writing would help me?

One idea per entry

This year, I discovered Zettelkasten, which is a note-taking system that uses index cards.

Since I rarely use analog resources anymore, I tried learning it on different Zettelkasten-friendly software like Roam and Notion. However, I kept struggling to make it work.

My aha moment came when I realized I was trying to make my notes do too much. I had ignored one of the core tenets of the system: to allow only one idea per index card.

Only one page

Recently Seth Godin talked about how he permits himself just one page on his word processor for each blog post.

If I did this, the most I can get is maybe 200 to 250 words maximum (even now I am bumping up on that edge). Yet, it forces me to sharpen my points and get to the meat of the idea.


The advantage of constraints is that it forces us to make choices. To ask what is important and what are we trying to say and to process the idea down to the core.

Everything else is cruft or other part of a different idea that deserve its own post.

David Gane Twitter

Co-writer of the Shepherd and Wolfe young adult mysteries, the internationally award-winning series, and teacher of storytelling and screenwriting.