Procrastination is generally considered a bad thing and we feel guilty about it if we catch ourselves putting something off. However, sometimes it’s a good thing and we can actively use it to boost our creativity. We can also make our procrastination more creative so that it works for us.
First off, though, make sure that the reason you’re putting something off isn’t actually a good one… it might be that whatever it is you’re hesitant to start is something that you really shouldn’t start at all and your subconscious is trying to tell you this. Your subconscious might be wondering if you’ve made the right decision - it might be that on reflection it was something that you shouldn’t be doing anyway, so a cooling off period after the initial decision to do it is often a good thing.
Sometimes this space you give yourself can change the way you do it instead and produce a good result rather than a less good one. That is, don’t be too hasty to NOT procrastinate – you might be rushing into something without considering all the pros and cons. Better to put something off for a while than regret it later. In this way you will create a better way forward.
Anyway, doing something straight away isn’t always a good thing and can lead to it not being done properly. Balance is required between speed and efficiency. The other thing about immediate action is that some time later you might ask yourself why you did it – so stop now and ask that question to make sure you have no doubts about yourself later.
Sometimes you can deliberately decide to procrastinate when it’s something that you know you shouldn’t be doing. For example, eating another tub of ice cream, flopping in front of the TV when you have work to do, having a smoke. So now procrastination is good and you don’t need to feel guilty about it – oh, the relief! Practice procrastinating on the things that are harmful to you and feel that virtuous glow.
When you put all this together and apply it to, for example, a piece of writing – maybe you’re trying to get that novel done or complete a short story to send off – and yet you’re just not getting it done. That is, can your creativity be forced to work its magic when you decide, or should you wait for inspiration? It might be that creativity springs within us most effectively in those times between hectic activity, those quiet moments of reflection.
If you’re stuck on chapter fourteen of your novel, how do you know if you’re procrastinating or simmering brilliant prose? If you’re stuck, go back a stage and check it out – when you look forward again your way will have become clear and you will know if you should forge ahead regardless of nagging doubts, or whether you should indeed take time out to clean the gutters while your subconscious mind works its magic on that recalcitrant chapter.
Sometimes you need some space between you and your creation. In that space, which could be filled with nothing (which we’ll call calm reflection rather than lounging about) or it could be filled with some other unrelated activity which allows your brain to keep working. In that case it’s a good idea to make a date with yourself for when you’re going to start writing again. Don’t do anything writing-wise until that time and then on the dot – let your creativity rip. You’ll find it refreshed and eager to scale mountains of prose.
So, next time you feel guilty about procrastinating – don’t! Just take a careful look at why this is happening and then make creative use of it.
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