Don’t we need to keep practicing, keep learning, keep busy to be creatively productive?
A number of psychologists and artists say daydreaming or otherwise “wasting time” is actually a way to enhance creativity.
For example, author Barbara Abercrombie writes about working on an essay about her divorce, but not having created an outline or idea for its themes after a day of reading her old journals.
She comments, “I felt I had wasted most of the day because I wasn’t actually writing.
“This can be one of the trickiest parts of being a writer, this need to fool around to be creative, and to be okay with that.” From her book A Year of Writing Dangerously.
In his post In Praise of Goofing Off, psychologist Dennis Palumbo notes, “Some people call it puttering, or screwing around, or just plain goofing off. Others, of a more kindly bent, call it day-dreaming. Kurt Vonnegut used the quaint old term ‘skylarking.’
“What I’m referring to, of course, is that well-known, rarely discussed but absolutely essential component of a successful creative person’s life — the down-time, when you’re seemingly not doing anything of consequence. Certainly not doing anything that pertains to that deadline you’re facing: the pitch meeting set for next week, the screenplay you’ve been toiling over, the important audition that’s pending.”
But, he explains, “there’s a very subtle difference between procrastination and creative, productive, process-nourishing goofing off. Procrastination, as I see in my therapy practice every day, is a product of an artist’s inner conflicts around his or her creative gifts. Fears about failure, questions about one’s sense of entitlement, doubts about competence, concern about the potential for shameful exposure.”
Dennis Palumbo, MFT, is a former screenwriter, now licensed psychotherapist specializing in creative issues. His book is Writing from the Inside Out: Transforming Your Psychological Blocks to Release the Writer Within.
Creativity coach Eric Maisel, PhD asks in his book Mastering Creative Anxiety, “Are you creating less often than you would like? Are you avoiding your creative work altogether? Do you procrastinate?. That’s anxiety.”
From my post Creative Anxiety – Are You Procrastinating?
It may not be so easy for some of us to goof off.
In her article What’s the rush?, coach Jenna Avery, who works with creative and highly sensitive people, writes, “Internally, many of us feel driven to perform, excel, and succeed. We want to do good work… We feel flawed for being highly sensitive and try to prove that we are not. We feel behind on life’s accomplishments. We over-schedule because we don’t want to miss anything… We are filled with passions, visions, and projects that compel us forward, taking on more and more.”
But – as I have experienced on a number of occasions – that drivenness can have a dark side, as I wrote about in my post Multiple Talents, Multiple Passions, Burnout.
Joyce Carol Oates, who certainly knows something about creative accomplishment, comments in her book The Faith of a Writer: Life, Craft, Art: “It’s bizarre to me that people think that I am ‘prolific’ and that I must use every spare minute of my time when in fact, as my intimates have always known, I spend most of my time looking out the window (I recommend it).”
More in my post Developing Creativity by Staring Out the Window.
Photo from post Miss Pykowski…listen up…it’s okay to daydream.