Between precrastination and procrastination

Mentors, motivators, and coaches often use the term procrastination in connection with the creative process. Many people, especially inexperienced ones, can relate to it. They know the fear in front of the blank page and the constant postponement of the task.

The advice from experienced mentors is usually take action. Don’t procrastinate. The first step is the biggest. I can also confirm this; you can find my thoughts about it here. Once we have drawn the first line, written the first sentence, and played the first note, we are already in the middle of the creative process.

Yet little is written about the opposite of procrastination: the precrastination, the tendency to do things too quickly, too soon, too hastily, or too rashly.

Great ideas require incubation time. We need time to look closely, observe, absorb, experiment, and let thoughts grow and connect. Leonardo da Vinci puts it this way:

“Creativity sometimes requires going slowly, pausing, even procrastinating. That allows ideas to marinate”.

Leonardo da Vinci

Social media experts recommend taking action, posting consistently, daily, and as much as possible. I think that’s a great way to gain followers and attention and to feel productive. But is it the best and most effective way to get the most out of things? Isn’t this advice the fuel for pre-crastination and thus the direct path to banality?

As always, the truth lies somewhere in between. Let’s not wait too long, but let’s also think about Leonardo from time to time before clicking Publish too soon.

Embracing the good pressure, discarding the bad one

Some projects, be they commissions or study projects, still make me feel stressed and nauseous from insomnia just thinking about them. The pressure I felt at the time while creating was not a good one, not a healthy one. Maybe it was beneficial regarding my productivity and focus, but only because I hadn’t yet learned to activate either early on. Although perhaps the result was convincing, in the long run, the process was destructive. I simply started to work on the project too late.

Bad pressure is the pressure we feel when the deadline is eight in the morning, and we’ve worked through the night until five minutes to eight under intense pressure. We are exhausted, haven’t eaten for hours, haven’t had anything to drink, and are dissatisfied with our creative results. There is nothing we wish for more than to have just a little bit more time (which would have been possible if we had managed to start working earlier).

Regardless of whether or not the client or professor is happy with our work, we have failed — not just because we pushed our bodies and minds to an unhealthy limit. We risked diminishing our enjoyment of our creative work in the long run because of our procrastination and poor planning. For our life, this would be a real tragedy.

We feel a good pressure early. It’s the kind of excitement and nervousness that drives us to our desks to do the work. We’re nervous because we don’t know where the journey is going. Can we meet the client’s expectations? Is there enough time for the deadline? What do I need to get done this week to keep on schedule? Good pressure pushes us right from the start. If we ignore it long enough, it turns into the vicious monster that hunts us through a creative hell.

Switching our minds into discovery mode

The first step is the most important, they say. But why is that so?

We have managed to conquer the first stage of resistance, for one thing. This can take a lot of strength, overcoming, and a lot of time in the worst case.

The best part is that the first step can be minimal. The first sketch of an idea for a new advertising campaign, the first sentence of our novel, or the first Google search on our bachelor thesis.

The first step may take a few moments, but what happens to us at that moment changes everything. Because the moment we start, we put on a pair of glasses. More precisely, we look through a template or filter from now on. We switch our minds into discovery mode.

Suddenly, whether consciously or subconsciously, we begin to perceive things around us differently related to our project. Similar to the phenomenon that if we bought a red jeep, we now start seeing red jeeps everywhere on the roads. They were always there, but now we see them first.

Our subconscious works from now on, even when we do something completely different, like the household. The well-known brilliant idea that struck us in the shower is not creativity. It is only the result of creativity.