Time Bandits


Quotidiandose does not own copyrights to this image. All rights reserved to artist.

Quotidiandose does not own copyrights to this image. All rights reserved to the artist.

Ah speaking of – they came and stole a good portion of my time this week so my post was delayed. Demands of the paying gig always come first. I’m at that point of weighing whether the additional time required to do the job are worth the pay or if it’s time to look for a different job. It’s a fine line at the moment.

If you’ve missed the first two installments of my mini-series, you can find them here:

1. The Creative Mind

2. A Mentalist

Now that you are caught up, onto the topic at hand – time bandits. Being a creative does not give license to waste time but I know several creatives that have taken time-wasting to a near art form in and of itself. It seems a shame when you see a very talented person goofing off playing video games, but then again Pewdiepie makes a good living playing video games.

The following characteristics I’ve grouped into this category because they all involve time management or the lack of.
I’ve often been accused of living on a Bohemian time schedule. I often misjudge the amount of time it will take to do a task, and when you are waist deep in your inspired work it’s hard to just stop. Go find a stream and wade out to where you are waist deep. In order to get back to the bank of that stream, it takes a concerted effort. First of all, you want to make it worth your while of getting soaking wet and fighting the current and the c old water temperatures so you want to make the most of your time in that stream. After reaching a point where you are satisfied or your teeth are chattering and lips are blue, whichever comes first you make your way to the bank.

There isn’t a crane with a hoist that just lifts you from the center and plants your feet on the terra firma. You have to step carefully keeping your balance because the current of the flowing water could easily take you under if you aren’t paying attention. Inspiration is like that – and if you don’t pay attention to it, it will knock you over in the water and flow downstream to the next victim – I mean creative in its path.

NO, you don’t want inspiration to leave you and bless the next guy – we are a greedy bunch – we want it for ourselves so we wade out there – waist deep – letting it flow through us, letting it affect our bodies, our minds until nothing else matters but the rush of creation!

Then someone is yelling waving hands on the bank demanding you get out of the river because there are dangers or they want to leave or whatever their demands are. It’s almost a drugged state – a euphoric rush of creative juices that affects your entire being.
Slowly their words begin to register and we make our way to their dry location. ( NO pun intended – honestly!) After leaving the “ rush” of those waters – we are left cold, shivering, our fingers may even prune, but our minds are still on the thrill of that rushing water.

OK, so now that I went into that whole little diatribe trying to convey what it’s like and why time is irrelevant for a creative mind, let’s move onto the characteristics.

1.  Creatives work the hours that work for them. Frank Lloyd Wright rose at 4 am to work on his projects. It was when he felt the most creative. No matter when it is, individuals with high creative output will often figure out what time it is that their minds are in “the zone”, and structure their days accordingly.

This is an area that I have difficulty with because the logical minded persons in my household believe that everyone should function on the day shift schedule. My mind usually doesn’t even approach the zone till 7 pm. I always have my notebook handy, but it causes conflicts when I stay up till 2 am.

Having said that I will counter by adding – I can adapt. My marriage and family are worth more to me than getting my way about when I write. Besides, most of the world operates around day shift. I will adapt, overcome, and improvise!

2.  They lose track of time. See the allegory of the stream above. Yes, we lose track of time. There is a multiplicity of factors that contribute to this.
Creative types may find that when they’re writing, dancing, painting or expressing themselves in whatever way they choose, they get “in the zone,” or what’s known as a “flow state”, which can help them to create at their highest level. Flow is a mental state when an individual transcends conscious thought,  reaching a heightened state of effortless concentration and calmness. ( Try that Zen garden on for size!) When someone is in this state, they’re practically immune to any internal or external pressures and distractions that could hinder their performance.
When they are creating they get lost in time and space.  They can forget to eat, to drink and even to sleep. When words, colors or ideas start to flow out of their mind there’s nothing else that really matters to them.

You get into the flow state when you’re performing an activity you enjoy that you’re good at, but that also challenges you — as any good creative project does.

So here are some reasons why we lose track of time:

  • Inspiration hits when inspiration decides to hit
  • under- estimating how long things will take
  • hitting the flow state, or your groove, or the zone and you don’t want to stop
  • the persistent nagging that you can’t stop until you reach a point that only you know what it is
  • schedules are more like guidelines

3.  They get inspired at the least expected moment. Nobody can control when they are inspired. NOBODY! Here are just a few instances of inspiration:

  • on the same stretch of highway, I drive nearly daily as a coyote runs across the road in front of me
  • while my daughter is complaining because daddy didn’t see her point of view.
  • At the gym while pleading for the clock to tick faster
  • In a church service
  • at the movie theater between trailers
  • in the shower
  • on the toilet
  • laying on the floor curled into a ball shaking from dehydration and heat exhaustion
  • on the Dr’s table with my legs in stirrups – what? You don’t think I’m laying there anxious for the exam do you?

Just a few places. I’m sure as creatives, we all have interesting tales of an odd time that inspiration has struck.

4.  Often told to get a real job. I can’t tell you how much this one infuriates me. I have worked full-time in the private sector. I’ve worked full-time in government employ. I’ve worked full-time in numerous jobs. It’s not a lack of work ethic – I have a great work ethic. I quit working with the DOD to be a stay at home mom and raise my kids. I didn’t want them to be raised by daycare staff. I have issues – let’s leave it there.

My point is, I didn’t quit that very well paying job to live a life of leisure eating bonbons and getting mani-pedis. Raising children is hard work. It’s a 24/7 job! Talk about demanding? Stress on the job? This is the reason most men WANT to go to work to flee the screaming crying babies, the stinky diapers, the screaming toddlers, the preteen angst and the teenage drama.

Oh sure, they say they want to provide for their family but there is a part of them that is terrified of these small creatures that have invaded their homes and seem to siphon adult energy like a backwoods thief siphoning gas out of your car in the moonlight.

I have a job, and the paycheck to prove it. ( Granted it isn’t as much as I’d like for the time invested but that’s a different matter) Then you add in the parenting, the wife, the occasional teaching gig, the occasional public speaking gig, the – am I making my point yet?

WE are not slackers! I often think it’s not really that the people who tell us “get a real job” are thinking we don’t work – but that we haven’t given up on our childhood dreams and on some level we make them feel bad because they can’t muster their strength to chase their own. But maybe that’s just me.

5.  Creatives Procrastinate. I have indeed mastered the art of procrastination, yet I still can’t hold a candle to the king! Long may he reign and hopefully I will break these bad habits soon.I will start on that tomorrow.

Just a sample of potential procrastination techniques:

  • workspace rearrangement
  • pre-writing rituals (everything has to be in its proper place and collected within arms reach)
  • stationary choices ( what do you mean it’s all digital? What does that have to do with anything?)
  • waiting for inspiration ( ah! And here’s the rub of stopping the flow – we have to wait for it to return)
  • snacks and beverages ( coffee is mandatory, so is the sacrificial offering of chocolate to the great gods of writing that be)
  • selecting the perfect font – because Times new roman looks old and worn out.
  • Workspace re- rearrangement ( after a session involving the snacks and beverages it is necessary to tidy up and by that time there are at least 2 dozen stickies, and . . . )
  • utilizing social media ( Facebook black hole of death)
  • pauses, tea breaks, naps, interruptions, getting back in the zone after interruptions
  • advanced workspace rearrangement

You get the idea! This doesn’t even include YouTube, checking email, or bathroom breaks.

Give a creative a deadline and they will comply, but you can be absolutely certain they will do 90% of the work the night before that deadline.

6.  Do It all over again! No matter how far a creative has come with their last creation, if at a given point they don’t like it, they won’t think twice and will trash it just to start all over again. And again. And again.

Regardless of the amount of work, that has already gone into the scrapped project. There is never a “close enough”, it has to be dead on target or it gets scrapped. Hence, the amount of time many will spend on getting their projects, their babies to their point of satisfaction to present to the world, and thusly expect the world to appreciate their genius!  ( And this is the point when the ” flow” is leaving, the sense of satisfaction is  having those last-minute tingles throughout their bodies, soon to be left with an emptiness where we become super sensitive wanting praise, recognition, something – just throw us a bone at least!

Time is a limited commodity, but creatives tend not to be clock watchers. Night and day really mean little when they are in the zone. In fact, everything fades into the background when they are focused on their creation. Yes, we have a sort of godlike creationist neurosis thing going on, a chameleonic personality disorder that alternates between master wizard/ minor deity. We determine in our worlds, “Let there be light” and BAM there is light. Writing, painting, singing, sculpting – is the art of creation. And if it isn’t right, we tear it down and start over. We are the masters of our universe, the  puppet master of our characters. We hold life and death in the palm of our hands snuffing one while lifting up another. BWAHAHAHA!

Do any of these traits ring true with you? My personal examples may not click with you and that’s fine. What are your experiences? What’s the strangest time inspiration has struck you?

Write on my friends! Or paint, draw, dance, sing – however, you express that creative bent! Do it with passion!