“I can’t decide if procrastination kills creativity or is essential to it.” – Grant Snider
I’m a writer. I’ve come to accept that as part of who I am, regardless of whether or not I’m actively writing something. I’m the kind of person that’s always making up stories, checking and rechecking my words, musing about things and how best to communicate them to others. I’m what one would call a naturally creative person. But even though I’m constantly thinking and brainstorming and musing, I’m not always motivated to write things down.
I’ve been “writing a novella” since my senior year of college. What started as a five page class assignment quickly morphed into something more and has since grown into a healthy forty five page piece of a novella. But I’m nowhere near finished with it and to be perfectly honest, procrastination has little to do with it.
I think you can only really procrastinate something if you’re on a deadline, if there’s a fixed point in time in which it must be completed. So without one, I’d argue that the primary killer of my creativity isn’t putting things off, but rather a lack of motivation to do anything at all. The simple fact of the matter is, I don’t have to do it if I don’t want to. No one is pushing me to finish my novella. No one even knew it existed until a paragraph ago. So how can I blame procrastination for killing my creativity when what’s actually killing my novella is my lack of motivation to work on it?
I still love the idea. I still love the intrigue and the characters and layers. And I’m not horrified by the writing every time I go back to the beginning and read it over (which is a genuine fear most writers have when they’ve been working on something over years at a time). So why don’t I have any drive to finish it? What’s stopping me from spending the necessary time to get it out into the world?
In what is arguably one of my favorite Ted Talks of all times, “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” Ken Robinson said:
“What we do know is, if you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original…And by the time they get to be adults, most kids have lost that capacity. They have become frightened of being wrong. And we run our companies like this. We stigmatize mistakes. And we’re now running national education systems where mistakes are the worst thing you can make. And the result is that we are educating people out of their creative capacities.”
And this I think brings me to the secondary killer of my creativity: fear. As Robinson said, we’re not prepared to be wrong about things, not prepared to make mistakes and deal with the emotional consequences of them. So we bury some of our bright ideas out of fear of disapproval or rejection.
What if no one likes my novella? What if it sounds too much like something someone else has already written? Or what if no one actually ever reads it and I’ve put all this work in for nothing? That worry is more than enough to put me off the keyboard for a while.
What kills your creativity? Let me know in the comments down below!