“Of course, the things he did finish were enough to prove his genius. The Mona Lisa alone does that, as do all of his art masterpieces as well as his anatomical drawings. But by the end of writing this book, I even began to appreciate the genius inherent in his designs left unexecuted and masterpieces left unfinished. By skirting the edge of fantasy with his flying machines and water projects and military devices, he envisioned what innovators would invent centuries later. And by refusing to churn out works that he had not perfected, he sealed his reputation as a genius rather than a master craftsman. He enjoyed the challenge of conception more than the chore of completion.”Walter Isaacson , Leonardo Da Vinci
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I learned in this book that Leonardo Da Vinci is known for unfinished works. Yet, amongst all the unfinished works are the masterpieces we celebrate.
He has come up a few times as an example of productive procrastination. The point made is that in his detours, in the time spent observing nature, in trying to understand how things worked, were the seeds of what became his masterpieces. This is the way he learnt about light, shadow and perspective, based on what he observed in the real world.
These observations made the masterpieces possible.
I did not know that he worked on the Mona Lisa for a long time. Perfecting it bit by bit by bit as he learnt from those detailed studies that appeared to go nowhere. They never went nowhere.
What can look like procrastination to some people is the creative process. You let new ideas in, test them, let them percolate in your mind. You practice and try. You perfect.
The point is best summarised in the below quote from a book I am currently listening to.
“Procrastination may be the enemy of productivity, but it can be a resource for creativity.”Adam M. Grant, Originals: How Nonconformists Move the World