Given the option, would you rather spend your lunch break chatting with your coworkers, or sitting in a plastic chair at the DMV, clutching a random number in your white-knuckled fist? On a mild, early spring day, would you like to take the dog for an unhurried walk, or sit on hold with the insurance company, elevator jazz burning in your ear? Now a tough one: would you prefer to spend your one free hour before bedtime zoned out in front of the television, or writing a proposal for your idea that will vastly improve the way your company interacts with its customers?
There are plenty of chores we put off because they are mundane, irritating, inconvenient. But why do we also put off the good stuff? The exciting, possibly game-changing thinking and doing that could better our portfolio/company/self? A gap exists between the conception of our sharpest ideas and the act of bringing them to fruition because the process of creation is overwhelming and intimidating. We have an inkling (sometimes even a solid hunch!) that we can solve a problem, perfect a process, or give words to a “je ne sais quoi” universally felt yet universally unexplained, but we still carry a fair amount of doubt in our own abilities. We’re afraid that if we try, we’ll fail, and it will be confirmed that we’re no more innovative or talented than the next schmuck.
This is, of course, ridiculous—most attempts at creation are not one-and-done opportunities and besides, failing can teach us much more than cruising through life staring blankly ahead can. By the time February rolls around, many of us have shed the burden of our well-intentioned New Year’s resolutions, and the motivation to do more than the bare minimum ebbs away. Suddenly, just making it through daily work tasks and family or social obligations sucks out all of our energy and leaves us wanting to space out in front of the television. But here’s the thing: the television is only going to deplete you even further. (Have you ever leapt up after a six hour Stranger Things marathon, ready to run a real one?) The act of creation is invigorating. Sure, it’s exhausting, too, but in a good way. In a way that makes you feel self-satisfied and smart and deserving of a good night’s sleep.
Please note that I’m using the phrase “process of creation” because the word “creativity” has developed a strangely narrow connotation that sometimes turns off analytical types. What I’m describing here is the path that ideas take from tenuous and sparkling conception to raw and concrete execution, and it’s a process all humans crave, whether in infrequent bursts or continuous waves.
If you have an idea on the back burner that’s been patiently waiting for your attention, now, rather than the beginning of January, is an even better time to take it on. The pressure’s off to dutifully plug away and roll out something brand new to start the year, and you can work at your own pace, under the radar if you wish. If you need more motivation, I’ve enlisted the help of three Medium articles: one explaining why you feel more motivated at night than in the morning, one that explains a foolproof (but cutthroat!) method for extracting your own creative juices, and one by Richmonder Josh Epperson on embracing procrastination rather than shaming or attempting to banish it.