Procrastination as Creativity

“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

What Stories Are You Telling Yourself?

““Everybody agrees that a story begins with some breach in the expected state of things,” writes Jerome Bruner, the pioneer of narrative psychology. “Something goes awry, otherwise there’s nothing to tell about.” The story is the tool to resolve this breach.”

Bruce Feiler, Life Is in the Transitions
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I am fascinated by the power of a story. Older posts on this blog have frequent references to stories of my own to help make a point.
I picked this book up last week and started to read as I go through a personal health related transition of my own. It is already getting me thinking about the stories I tell myself as I face my own transition.
Why is this happening to me?
The story I tell myself affects my mind set, and how I approach my own treatment.
I have been lucky, in a perverse sense, to have friends who have been through what I am going through. One consistent piece of advice has been to focus on the positive. To understand that the treatment, while not pleasant is healing my body. That my body can heal itself as well. To welcome the medications into me, even when the side effects leave you feeling awful.
This is the story I am telling myself. I could be telling a different, more negative story, focusing on how unfair this all is. But where would that leave me? How would that help? Life has thrown me a curve ball. I can choose the story I want to tell myself. I choose to focus on the treatment, that it helps, and that I know people who are better now.
My challenge to you is to dwell on this quote. Think about the stories you tell yourself about what is happening around you.

The broader point of this book, bearing in mind I am early in its reading, is that we all face transitions in life.
We do not live life in a linear pattern: birth, school, work, marriage, family, retirement … in those areas we face transitions, for example loss of a job, death of a family member, or serious illness.
Whatever it is for you, pay attention to the story you tell yourself. Then think about the power of creating a different story. Would it help?

The Book