You know how people say you need to prioritize things to make them happen? Well, for some things, like getting to the grocery store before you run out of milk, or scheduling time for your exercise routine, that can be so true. For other things, it simply is not.
I am highly organized by nature. I tend to compartmentalize effectively, giving the many ideas that captivate me their own mental file folders so that, some day, I can get back to them. Often, however, I judge myself for not getting back to certain things fast enough. When this happens, I prioritize in an attempt to control things into being, pushing certain ideas to the top of my list.
Truth be told, this rarely works for me. Ideas I follow under these circumstances tend to lack vitality and definition. When I push, I almost never find the flow. Frustrating as it can be, I’ve learned that some things just can't be rushed.
Take my book project, for example: For years I've been writing pages for a memoir. I want to share my story of how being an adopted child is the reason I became an artist. I have pages and pages written, none in complete chapters, most not even as complete ideas. I don't even have them organized into one messy manuscript! My pages exist in separate files all over my computer, as well as in my head. This irritates the bejeezus out of me because I know that time’s a-tickin’. But if it ain’t time yet, it just ain’t time yet.
Some might consider allowing important ideas to marinate in one’s mind a form of procrastination. I disagree. Procrastination is a condition where one pushes off an important task, even though there
may be negative consequences for doing so. Mental marination is a process, sort of like allowing fine wine or whiskey to age in a barrel. Without resting undisturbed in contact with the barrel’s surface, the beverage just won’t develop the rich, complex flavors that make it worth drinking.
I’ve never been a procrastinator. My compulsive nature means I can shake off the inertia of inaction and summon up new energy to address what needs attention. Also, it’s my nature to call out pink elephants (often to the discomfort of others- oops!), so I’m honest with myself, even when it hurts. I feel confident that holding off on my book project is not procrastination. It just ain’t time yet.
When the time is right for a project to flow, it just happens. Smoothly and with ease, the work moves through the pen, brush, or torch. Being in the Zone, also called the Flow State, happens when the brain is shut off from external experience and has turned inward, speaking to itself. In our fast-paced, hyper-expressive society, I worry that this internal process may be devalued, or at least experienced less and less by younger generations. I sincerely hope this does not turn out to be the case. Quiet and solitude are necessary components of the creative process. Our ability to innovate depends on them.
With regard to my never-ending memoir project, the desire to write my story still rises strong within me. I feel frustrated I don’t have more to show my efforts thus far, but I choose to believe that every time I draft another page, post another blog, or mail another thank-you note, I am engaging in the process, fine-tuning the spices in the mental marinade.
Sometimes, it just ain’t time yet. But perhaps it will be soon. Thanks for waiting with me.