When you’re slap bang in the middle of a creative project it’s hard to keep perspective. It’s easy to think that the project you’re working on right now is the big one. The best you’ve ever done – perhaps you’ll ever do. But science tells us that every time you think you’ve reached the peak of your creative powers – you’ve barely got started.
Research proves that procrastination isn’t always bad for the creative process. If you procrastinate right, you can use it to solve the thickest of thorny creative problems and actually be more productive. But if you procrastinate wrong, it can send you hurtling into a negative, nail-chewing mind spiral that makes you question the existence of your own soul.
Being a highly prolific writer is sneered at in some circles. Some people think there’s a trade-off between quality and quantity. To do truly ‘great work’ – you can’t do very much of it. Science disagrees. Most of the world’s best writers, creatives and innovators – are also hugely prolific, productive people.
Like Barack Obama, Mark Zuckerberg’s wardrobe is stuffed to the gills with exactly the same clobber so he doesn’t have to think about what to wear in the morning. He does this because even the smallest smidgen of mental energy invested in deciding whether it’s a brogues or socks and sandals kinda day could be better spent. Zuckerberg never bothers his high-tech grey matter about his daily outfit because he removes the need to make a decision in the first place. In short, he has a system.
The last few weeks for first-time novelist Wyl Menmuir have been a blur. Since finding out his book The Many had been longlisted for the Man Booker – the most prestigious literary prize in the world – he’s been interviewed by national newspapers, courted by big name agents and has headlined literary events.
You’ll never get something written if you don’t start writing it.
At this point you’ll be so awe-struck by this razor-sharp nugget of writing wisdom that you’ll have to make yourself a cup of really strong sweet tea. No?
“Ultimately, literature is nothing but carpentry. Both are very hard work. Writing something is almost as hard as making a table. With both you are working with reality, a material just as hard as wood. Both are full of tricks and techniques. Basically very little magic and a lot of hard work are involved.” Gabriel Garcia Marquez
You’ve made it — you’re a paid writer! Maybe you write advertising copy, video sales letters, memos and presentations, or greetings cards. You’re in this line of work because you love language and you were that child who always hung around the library: there was always a novel in you.
When your long term creative passion is an unpaid side-project, it’s tough to know if you’re moving forwards, treading water or just going round in circles headless-chicken style and never getting any better.
I don’t have an infectious disease but if I did, I imagine telling people you have one garners much the same reaction as telling people you’ve written a short comedy film. There’s normally some initial interest – even enthusiasm – but then a yawning chasm of social awkwardness opens as people think I might expect them to like the film or even worse – find it funny.