Oblique Strategies

Donald’s Oblique Strategies

Instigate a process that removes the necessity for you to make decisions

Don’t ‘represent’ a process, replicate it

Research an abandoned technology and make it your own.

Ask a (hopefully) perfect stranger

Think like a beginner

Pretend you have all the time in the world

Make an exhaustive list of alternate materials and processes you can use and consider using them

Consider the frame/border – Where does the piece end?

Get help!!

Consider all scales – strive for richness at all levels

Highly finished surfaces aren’t ‘better’ – Why remove the marks that are already there as part of the process?

Fast is good!

My preferred selections from Eno’s Oblique Strategies

Abandon desire

Abandon normal instruments

Accept advice


Allow an easement (an easement is an abandonment of a stricture)

Always the first steps

Are there sections? Consider transitions

Ask people to work against their better judgment

Ask your body

Back up a few steps. What else could you have done?

Be dirty

Be extravagant

Be less critical more often

Breathe more deeply

Bridges – build & burn

Call your mother and ask her what to do.

Change nothing and continue with immaculate consistency

Consult other sources – promising & unpromising


Decorate, decorate

Define and area as ‘safe’ and use it as an anchor

Destroy nothing; Destroy the most important thing

Discard an axiom

Disconnect from desire

Discover the recipes you are using and abandon them

Do nothing for as long as possible

Do something boring

Do the washing up

Don’t avoid what is easy

Don’t be afraid of things because they are easy to do

Don’t be frightened of cliches

Don’t be frightened to display your talents

Emphasize differences

Emphasize repetitions

Emphasize the flaws

Faced with a choice, do both

Find a safe part and use it as an anchor

Get your neck massaged

Give the game away

Give way to your worst impulse

Go outside, shut the door

Go slowly all the way round the outside

Go to an extreme, move back to a more comfortable place

Honor thy error as a hidden intention

How would someone else do it?

Imagine the piece as a set of disconnected events (elements)

Instead of changing the thing, change the world around it.

Intentions – credibility of, nobility of, humility of..

Into the impossible

Is it finished?

Is there something missing?

It is quite possible (after all)

It is simply a matter of work

Just carry on

Listen to the quiet voice

List the qualities it has. List those you’d like.

Look at the order in which you do things

Look at very small object, look at its center

Look at the order in which you do things

Look closely at the most embarrassing details and amplify them

Make a blank valuable by putting it in an exquisite frame

Make a sudden, destructive, unpredictable action; incorporate

Make an exhaustive list of everything you might do and do the last thing on the list

Make it more sensual

Make what’s perfect more human

Not building a wall but making a brick

Once the search is in progress, something will be found

Only a part, not the whole

Only one element of each kind

Overtly resist change

Pay attention to distractions

Question the heroic approach

Remember those quiet evenings

Remove a restriction

Remove ambiguities and convert to specifics

Remove specifics and convert to ambiguities

Repetition is a form of change

Retrace your steps

Short circuit (eg. a man eating peas with the idea that they will improve his virility shovels them straight into his lap)

Simple subtraction

Simply a matter of work

Slow preparation, fast execution

State the problem in words as clearly as possible

Steal a solution.

Take a break

Take away the elements in order of apparent non-importance

Tape your mouth

The most important thing is the thing most easily forgotten

Tidy up

Towards the insignificant

Trust in the you of now

Turn it upside down (inside out)

Twist the spine

Use a tool with unknown results

Use an old idea

Use fewer notes (elements)

Use something nearby as a model

Use “unqualified” people.

Voice your suspicions

What are you really thinking about just now, incorporate

What is the simplest solution?

What mistakes did you make last time?

What most recently impressed you? How is it similar? What can you learn from it? What could you take from it?

What would your closest friend do?

What wouldn’t you do?

When is it for? Who is it for?

Where is the edge?

Work at a different speed

Would anybody want it?

You don’t have to be ashamed of using your own ideas

One Comment

  1. I particularly like ‘consider all scales’ – reminds me of Christopher Alexander & his “Nature of Order”… carys


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