There are some bad ideas floating around about creativity. Perhaps the most damaging one relates to the old notion that creative people need to feel inspired in order produce.
Many creative and productive people have asserted for years that just the opposite works better for them. Could scheduling creative work actually be the key to getting stuff done?
Inspiration Is Fleeting, But You Can Count on Your Schedule
Inspiration is hard to conjure at will. Sure, you might sometimes happen to come across it while walking in a forest or watching a TED Talk. But, somehow it’s always difficult to find inspiration when you go looking for it. It’s easier to let inspiration find you.
The only trouble is that some people have jobs that require them to generate creative work on a regular or even daily basis. If these folks were to sit around waiting for inspiration to strike, they might not meet their deadlines.
So, what do creative people do when they need to get stuff done? Well, to put it simply, they get to work.
Waiting for inspiration to strike? You might wait a long time...and lose many productive hours.
Professionals Don’t Wait Until They Feel Inspired — They Just Show Up
Pablo Picasso famously said, “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.”
In other words, sometimes you have to get to work before inspiration strikes in order to enter that coveted creative head space. Picasso isn’t the only artist to have realized this. Many have recognized the power of getting to work first and getting inspired second.
In an interview with Inside the Painter’s Studio, quoted by Lifehacker, painter and photographer Chuck Close said:
Inspiration is for amateurs — the rest of us just show up and get to work. And the belief that things will grow out of the activity itself and that you will — through work — bump into other possibilities and kick open other doors that you would never have dreamt of if you were just sitting around looking for a great ‘art [idea].’ And the belief that process, in a sense, is liberating and that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every day. Today, you know what you’ll do, you could be doing what you were doing yesterday, and tomorrow you are gonna do what you [did] today, and at least for a certain period of time you can just work. If you hang in there, you will get somewhere.
The idea of flow state is a relatively new concept, although the phenomenon has been around for a lot longer. People are able to get a tremendous amount of work done when they’re in this mental mode because they are totally focused and completely involved in the task at hand. The key to achieving flow state more often might be having routines that limit distractions, rather than worrying about waiting to feel inspired.
Flow State Can Be Triggered by Deep Work
The popular NPR podcast, Hidden Brain, recently covered the topic of scheduling creativity as a part of their You 2.0 series. Host Shankar Vedantam sat down with Cal Newport, a computer science professor at Georgetown University and author of the book Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World. In the podcast, Newport discusses how scheduling focused and isolated time for creative productivity is essential.
“This was something I noticed was very common to influential thinkers, is that they all seem to have this drive to, on a regular basis, cut themselves off from their lives of busyness and communication and distraction and isolate themselves to think deeply,” Newport said. “This drive to get away from noise and towards isolated solitary thinking is something that just comes up again and again when you study people who use their brain to produce influential or valuable output.”
Flow state, which is optimal for productivity, can be somewhat elusive and tricky to pin down. So, creative people have to work hard to pursue it. But, it may be more reliably achieved through scheduling time for “deep work.” It’s also important to protect that time through prioritizing it in our schedules.
“People I think intuit that they’re too distracted, and it’s making them feel fragmented and exhausted and anxious,” Newport added. “But we treat it, I think, in this more general sense of, I probably should be less distracted. And I think it’s more urgent than people realize, that if your brain is how you make a living, then you really have to worry about this cognitive fitness.”
So, if you’d like to be more productive, try scheduling and prioritizing your creative bursts. See for yourself if you’re able to get more done.
Tell Us What You Think
How do you generate high-quality work when you’re not feeling inspired? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.