Last month I wrote about a 2012 study that found the biggest impediment to creativity identified by Americans is lack of time.
A recent piece on Medium tells the story of an author who contacted 275 creatives to be interviewed for a book he was writing and was told “No” by one third of them. Another third said nothing.
Of those who did say no, a great deal of them cited a lack of time as the reason. The article author, Kevin Ashton, suggests that the reason why so many of these creatives were successful is that they said no to requests which would divert them from their work.
Time is the raw material of creation. Wipe away the magic and myth of creating and all that remains is work: the work of becoming expert through study and practice, the work of finding solutions to problems and problems with those solutions, the work of trial and error, the work of thinking and perfecting, the work of creating.
Creating consumes. It is all day, every day. It knows neither weekends nor vacations. It is not when we feel like it. It is habit, compulsion, obsession, vocation. The common thread that links creators is how they spend their time.
No matter what you read, no matter what they claim, nearly all creators spend nearly all their time on the work of creation. There are few overnight successes and many up-all-night successes.
From time to time I have written about how companies will bring a consultant or improv group in to teach their employees exercises that will help them become more nimble and creative. The mistake being made is thinking the exercises are the answer to the problem rather than recognizing it is the time spent with a shifted mindset that yields creative results.
The emphasis being on time spent.
Even creative artists can fail to recognize that their “break out” work was actually the result of a long period of failure and refinement and become discouraged when inspiration doesn’t immediately gift them with their next great idea.
I revisit this idea here periodically because it is useful to be reminded.
I frequently arrive at the solution I seek when I am mowing the lawn or in the shower. But generally the process hasn’t just encompassed the time it takes me to mow the lawn. I have already done a great deal of thinking and research leading up to that moment or have drawn my knowledge and experience to that point. The flash of insight I receive while mowing helps to coalesce all the ideas into a possible course of action.
[The title of this post is a riff on the Latin memento mori – remember you must die. My cobbled together meaning is remember you must work]