Over the years in my creative journey, I've engaged in some habits that at times I've felt guilty about, and yet I kept on doing them.
These habits include a pattern of avoiding certain people and activities, a fair bit of aimless meandering and a whole lot of procrastinating.
In actual fact, I've never wanted to give up any of these habits. I'm pretty attached to them. Sometimes, I've thought that maybe I was being selfish when I chose to do my own thing instead of going along with the crowd, but the truth is that certain people and activities drain my energy and I value my energy more.
Society has harsh words for those who engage in aimless meandering. Once, someone even accused me of being a dilettante, but hey, I'm happy loafing around, scrolling through random articles on the internet, scribbling doodles or reading popular magazines.
All this stuff makes me smile, and some of my most interesting ideas have come from time spent playing.
If they were rewriting the seven deadly sins today, they'd probably add procrastination to the list. Still, I love to procrastinate. And I do it well.
I can be a hard-core TV-watcher, a devoted amateur chef or a serious house cleaner when there's something else I'm supposed to be doing.
I'll spend hours binge-watching "The Americans" rather than work on my novel; I'll cook up a vegetarian feast instead of editing my latest non-fiction book, or I'll vacuum all the rugs when I should be dealing with a challenging task that my communications person has set for me.
My house was never cleaner and my fridge never as well stocked with nutritious meals than when I was working on my first book. At least some people were happy about this.
With all the procrastinating, I somehow managed to complete the book and find a publisher.
Yes, it probably took longer than it would have if I hadn't let myself get side-tracked so often, but what about the neat ideas that came to me when I wasn't actually working? Most of these ideas ended up in the book.
And somehow, with all my procrastination, I've managed to complete three other books as well. There must be something to this...
To me, procrastination is a way of taking a "time out" that helps me avoid becoming overwhelmed by the task at hand. I know that I'll be getting back to it eventually, but forcing myself has never been conducive to my creativity.
When it comes to creativity, avoidance is essentially an act of self-preservation. I avoid certain people and activities because I have only so much energy to devote to my process.
I'm being ruthless, and yes, selfish as I choose to limit my exposure to that which doesn't suck the life force out of me. I'm lucky I can do it, or maybe I've set up my life this way?
Being an introvert, I'm content to spend a lot of time reading and writing, but I choose to make time for the people I'm closest to -- the ones who are kind, and who feed my energy. Being with these people makes me happy, so I become more motivated and inspired.
Creative people need to know themselves, and I've figured out that I need to guard my energy wisely. I've also learned that if I rush a project, I miss out on ideas that sneak up on me.
These are the ideas that don't show up for the longest time and then there they are, when, for example, the book is all but written. I almost always go back and add them in at the end. These ideas are the ones worth waiting for.
I'm someone who takes a week to pack a suitcase. No matter where I'm going, I start packing well in advance. I throw things into the suitcase and as the week goes on, I edit.
I add and subtract and toward the end of the week, it suddenly comes to me that there are other things I ought to put in, as well. Finally, by the end of the week, I'm happy with the result. This is also how I write books, so go figure.
Play, aside from just being fun, is an essential part of my creative process. Play allows me to find my joy; it has me wandering down paths I'd never explore if I stuck to linear choices; it allows me to face obstacles with humour and lightness and discover solutions that are weird enough to make perfect sense.
Without play, my mind would never be as unfettered. Without procrastination, the work I do would never be as complete.
I've come to see that instead of wasting time on people and activities that deplete me, I need to "waste" my time procrastinating and playing, so that many more absurd and ridiculous ideas can trickle into my conscious awareness.
And by the way, one of my favorite time-wasting activities has become a new gig, as I'm now blogging about TV for Yahoo Celebrity UK. Thanks to the benefits of procrastination, I'll never have to feel guilty about watching TV again.
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