deadlines can be lifelines [the creative habit]

August 10, 2009 | 1 Comment

This post is part of an ongoing series of reflections on my reading of The Creative Habit, by Twyla Tharp.

It was February 24 of this year that I began this series of reflections on The Creative Habit. Fresh off of reading the book, I had quite a few ideas I was looking forward to sharing and I said so: “In the weeks to come, I will offer some of my own reflections from the book.”

That was 24 weeks ago. Technically, I think that still qualifies as “in the weeks to come”, don’t you? But no, I didn’t anticipate that this series would still be going on in August. It’s not that I’ve lost interest in the series…many of Tharp’s words still stick with me. The truth is that I’ve not felt any sense of urgency to continue the series. I always knew I return to it…later.

There are no shortage of quips and quotes about time and the limits the it places on us. I’ll spare you those, but will offer a helpful perspective from Tharp:

Time, for example, is our most limited resource, but it is not the enemy of creativity that we think it is. The ticking clock is our friend if it gets us moving with urgency and passion. Give me a writer who thinks he has all the time in the world, and I’ll show you a writer who never delivers. (pg 126)

There are a few of you out there that this does apply to. Deadlines don’t really come into play for you, because you never wait until the last minute to do anything. You are freaks. No offense (well, maybe some). The rest of you are more like me…I like to think we are normal. It is often the deadlines that give us that final push of motivation to make, create, or do what we want or need to accomplish.

So the question I am left with is this…what kind of motivation do I need (and do you need) to get to those someday projects? I think you know what I mean. That story you want to write, that piece of art you want to bring to life, that software you want to code. Nobody else is putting a deadline on you…heck, nobody else probably even knows about it.

It’s a funny thing, time is. You can’t add any time later, but you can make more now.

  • In Twyla–speak I take projects that have no interest to me (even important sounding ones) and box them up, perhaps coming back to them later to plunder or rework. The thrill is gone, so why pretend it’s as important as I thought it was? It certainly hasn’t led me to fame and fortune but at least I have a shorter list of things I think I am committed to.

    The deadline itself is important though. Most (all?) of Twyla’s work has a very firm deadline. I’m quite envious. For those of us who do not have performance based creations perhaps it’s a matter of defining the goal and creating a reasonable deadline based on it …a series of projects that add up to the whole thing. I think sometimes my “next actions” are really projects and my projects are really goals. Thus some of my goals are actually life plans.