In prior posts, I have dealt with the importance of having a personal philosophy of writing. The elements of any writing philosophy must stand above a general preference for particular kinds of ideas for short stories and novels. More important, those elements should transcend considerations of writing technique such as plot, setting, characterization, style, and so on. All writers need an integrated package of powerful ideas geared towards such practical considerations as establishing productive work habits, maintaining standards, dealing with “writers block,” taming the inner critic, and just plain coping with the unforeseen.
Patience prospers the creative process. Impatience can cripple it. (Image: public domain)
In this post, I want to supplement my earlier ideas by putting forward some thoughts on how to deal with the problem of impatience.
Cognitive dissonance is usually defined as “the feeling of discomfort when simultaneously holding two or more conflicting cognitions: ideas, beliefs, values, or emotional reactions.” (Wikipedia) Or, “the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes.” (COED) The less familiar aspect of the distressing mental state – that we can also get into trouble when our beliefs and our actions do not coincide – gets less attention. This situation may go beyond the simple case of conscience and morality, of doing something we know is wrong and then feeling guilty (moral cognitive dissonance). It is quite possible to stumble into serious and painful cognitive dissonance without realizing what has happened.
When we look upon our actions and see they do not coincide with our beliefs, we become distressed. This is one form of cognitive dissonance, a kind of jarring discord within the psyche. (Image: Wikipaintings)
Creativity research has a lot to say about the work habits of creative people. Let us look at the issue of working on one thing at a time versus having a number of projects going all at once. What approach do you take with your creative process? Are you among those who single-mindedly work on just one project and carefully avoid being “sidetracked” by something else? Or do you happily juggle several projects at once, switching back and forth among them as you see fit or the mood takes you?
Creators often have several intuitively-related projects in progress at the same time and exploit the situation to synergize their creative powers with constant cross-fertilization. (Image: public domain)
The Power of Monomania
It can be tempting to insist on working with just one project at a time, starting it, and then continuing with it until it is completed. The idea is simple, straightforward, and produces finished work faster than any other technique. If you can keep going, that is. It may surprise you to learn that many creators are unable to do this. At some point, for any number of reasons, they run into difficulties that prevent them from finishing what they have started. Sometimes they abandon the project and start another – hopefully more easily completed – work. A small number cease working altogether and go through a period of renewed gestation or learning before resuming the interrupted project. Among authors, writer’s block is a frustrating form of this poorly understood process. More often, the creator will set the stalled work aside and begin with something else, something new, yet thematically related to what they had previously been doing.