Secret Project

It’s been no secret lately that I’m working on a Secret Project. The irony has not escaped me.

Usually when I start a project like this, I want to tell everyone all about it. This is partly sensible – discussion is a good way to get everything straight in my head – but of course the real motivator is that I like talking about me. It’s very satisfying to tell your friends about what interesting things you have come up with. It’s a bit like getting to show off, but at a modest enough level that nobody will call you on it.

I’ve done this all my life. It’s satisfying, but it’s a bit thin. The conversation is usually about unqualified plans for the future, and I rarely have anything substantial done by this point. Of course since I am such a hardworking, proactive person I will certainly put in the time and sweat to realize it into something tangible but. you know, later. Sometime after this conversation.

Any good feedback I get is really just on the idea.

And yet, I think good ideas are cheap: it’s making them happen that has real value. You’ve read this a hundred times before on as many blogs. Knowing this, why am I so keen on using idea-feedback as some sort of short-term validator? It’s hard to say precisely but I’m leaning towards “because I’m stupid.”

I’m curious if I can trick myself out of that. Some time ago I read an article claiming that people who share their ideas are less likely to execute them, because they’ve already got what they really wanted – some kind of identity as a Clever Person. Keeping my new project under wraps, then, is an exercise to see how much of my BS gets in my own way. If nobody knows what I’m doing, I wonder if I can see it through. At worst, it’s just another abandoned personal project, at best it’s completed and that’s great.

But there’s a twist: I’m not saying what the project is, but I am telling everyone that I’m up to something. I’m curious how much of the effect is based on just looking productive and how much is tied to the details of the project.

Here’s what I’ve let on:

  • There is a “heavy musical component” to it in a style that’s new to me
  • I have to learn a considerable number of new skills
  • It’s not nearly as exciting as I probably make it sound
  • It needs to succeed or fail on its own merits and might go either way

Interestingly, it’s been more than a year of off-and-on work and I’m still going. A handful of people have discovered the nature of it, but that hasn’t killed my motivation. This is unusual for me after so long, so I’m tentatively thinking that details are important to the share-don’t-execute pattern.

We’ll see. I’m far from done. But I’m still very excited about it.