Your Shiny Object Superpower

We long for everyday magic. Stop pathologizing your creativity.

Rose Ernst
The Startup
Published in
6 min readMay 1, 2020


Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose. It is a seeking that he who wishes may know the cosmic secrets of the world and they that dwell therein. — Zora Neal Hurston, Dust Tracks on a Road

“I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” — Albert Einstein

This story is for a good friend. A good friend whose superpower is her attraction to shiny objects — so-called “shiny object syndrome.”

I also succumb to shiny object syndrome. Especially when writing on Medium. Should I write about writing? COVID-19? Productivity? Something else entirely?

I used to believe shiny-object syndrome was a deficit.

I was wrong.

It’s a superpower: our imagination and our squashed creativity, trying to break free.

People who face oppression are also most likely to be labeled (or self-label) with this syndrome, precisely because we’re told (or tell ourselves) we’re not productive enough. If you’re juggling two jobs and three kids — or dealing with discrimination in the workplace, it’s no wonder you look for magical ways to be productive or to create passive income, is it?

Let’s turn this syndrome around, shall we?

What is shiny object syndrome?

It’s difficult to pin down a definition — as shiny object syndrome is a phenomenon we fear but we don’t really know how to recognize.

Here’s what consultant Karyn Greenstreet has to say about it:

“a new idea captures your imagination and attention in such a way that you get distracted from the bigger picture and go off in tangents instead of remaining focused on the goal.”

You know what this means — you get started on a project and head off in a million directions at once.



Rose Ernst
The Startup

Scholar, writer, editor, and autistic traveler. Autistic Traveler: Writing Sprints: