I’ve been thinking about deadlines lately and creativity - and I wonder does having the pressure of a deadline spur creative success or does it hamper it?
Sometimes we need a deadline to motivate action, and when we are truly down the the wire, when there is no time to hem and haw, action and adrenaline can become a beautiful cocktail that leads success ---- sometimes. Have the pressure of time can mute perfectionism, which sometimes works to inhibit the creative process. There’s just no time for it, when you have to get the thing made.
Not to brag, but I watch Stephen Colbert clips pretty regularly - and for his Late Show, on Thursdays, they film two episodes in one day. How is it that they can produce twice as much content in the time and space that they Monday through Wednesday produce only one? Well, I am sure there is a great deal of planning and working ahead. I.e. I am guessing some of the the second show is actually getting made during Monday through Thursday, but I have also heard Colbert mention that there is an intensity to those days of filming that is certainly infused with adrenaline. There is no second guessing. His staff just has to perform, has to write the joke, and move on. He has said that this fast pace of working makes you focus and nail it the first time.
Creativity under pressure can work - but it’s hard to maintain that level of adrenaline all of the time. That much adrenaline can be unhealthy, and I think ultimately it can lead to sloppiness and mistakes, with no time to fix. Also, even if the quality of work is maintained, it will lead to burnout.
I like having an excess of time that allows me to make those mistakes upfront - first thing. I like having time to clear the cobwebs - to get the bad ideas out in order to make room for the better ideas.
I guess I have a certain amount of performance anxiety, but there is also a benefit to having more time for a project. Having more time allows a project to breathe - allows for the ideas to come in the shower or while driving. As a project evolves, as you evolve, there is adequate time to rewrite and rethink everything.
But that kind of time can sometimes be unproductive when our first choices and intuition are often the correct one.
Word on the street is that the current cast of Queer Eye, the group of five, talented men, was the first choice, but there was a lot of time and effort spent affirming that instinctual choice. Sometimes we spend a lot of time ruling out other options when we ultimately go with our initial choices.
How do we know when to trust our first impulses and when should we push pass them and on to better and more creative ideas?
I am not sure if I know the answer to that, and mostly there are deadlines and outside forces that limit and shape our time and choices so that we are left with whatever we get.
Adam Grant, a self-proclaimed precrastinator, speaks of the benefits of some procrastination. He believes that there is a preferred balance in starting fast and finishing slow. That it is best to give yourself enough time to evolve ideas by getting them started as soon as possible but let them marinate for a while before finishing.
What do you think?
Do you need a lot of time to be your creative best?
Or do you work best under pressure?
Anna Lentz, artist, writer, and creativity coach who blogs about making a creative life connected with nature at Spring Bird.