I don’t know much about jet airplanes, but I have watched enough TV and movies to realize there are at least two engines. According to those dramas, a jet plane can still fly even if an engine stops working. It’s not easy nor incredibly safe (which makes good drama opportunity, right?), but it is possible. (There are also small twin-engine planes, but I’m not sure they can fly on only one engine, which means they won’t fit my analogy.)
This week we are talking about creative breakthroughs. Until recently, I would have said you must be working in order to have a creative breakthrough. How could you break through anything if you aren’t pushing on it? However, as we explored last week, procrastination can actually aid in production. I’ve come to realize that creative breakthroughs are powered by the twin engines of creative discipline and creative procrastination.
Discipline creates an infrastructure that can support the creativity. The discipline of just “showing up” for work creates a routine that ensures there is time to accomplish the creative work. When a routine time is scheduled (and guarded) for writing and only writing is done during that time, there is a guarantee something will be written. It might not be fantastic; it may not be a breakthrough; but it will be consistent. That consistency creates an environment of productivity as well as giving direction and forward momentum. It doesn’t matter if I am consistently writing every day or only writing from 2-3pm on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays or for some extended time on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons. It’s not the when that matters. It is the consistency. That consistent time for writing, or any other creative endeavor, programs the mind to be ready to work.
Creative procrastination is the other engine that powers the jet plane of our creative productivity, creating an environment conducive to creative breakthroughs. If an engine is run constantly, it eventually gives out. In the same way, if we are always “on”, always trying to produce something, we’ll eventually burn out. Even when we do have a breakthrough, we may not have the energy to follow through. As we all discussed last week, taking a break from our work, even totally ignoring or abandoning it for a time, can actually make us more productive.
Taking a break gives our “creative brain” or consciousness a rest. The pressure to produce is removed for a time. Just as several hours of sleep can totally refresh us even though the body is still “working,” so a break from our writing can refresh us even though our subconscious mind, muse, or whatever you want to call it, is most likely still be working on the project. In addition, the activities we engage in during those breaks provide input of new ideas and experiences that fuels our inspiration. That time away from the project allows us to be refreshed and re-energized, returning to the project with new ideas and new enthusiasm.
I’ve come to believe consistent productivity can only be achieved with a finely tuned balance of creative discipline and creative procrastination. I’m in the process of tuning that balance.