Wait as Long as Possible on Important Decisions

Creative folk like illustrators and writers already have a monumental time management hill to surmount — how do you squeeze in your creative process while balancing a home life and probably a job? This leads many of us to make quick decisions, just to have them crossed off the list. However, waiting as long a possible on important decisions can lead to more fruitful outcomes.

In the book Creativity, comedian John Cleese talks about why creative architects are consistent procrastinators. For the design of Fallingwater, perhaps the most famous house ever designed, Frank Lloyd Wright didn’t commit a single idea to paper. In fact, he waited until the client called to say he was getting the car to drive over. Then, in the two hours remaining, Wright designed the entire structure.

Embrace the Discomfort

It wasn’t that Wright was indecisive. He simply wished to have the idea fully formed in his head before committing it to paper. He allowed the idea to remain fluid and ever changing up until the point when a decision needed to be made. He was confident that the project would solve itself if given enough time.

As artists and writers, we need to step back and let our subconscious do a bit of the driving. Sometimes, the solution to a block is to simply let it simmer for a day or two. When we hit a stalling point, all we can see is the massive roadblock in front of us. Waiting allows other options and solutions to bubble to the surface of your mind. 

You May Get New Information

The longer you wait, the more information and ideas you have to play with. The anxiety of an important decision compels us to commit early. But if the decision is really important (a plot arc or a color palette) then it needs to be done right. 

We first need to demarcate the absolute drop dead time for when this decision needs to be made. In the case of Wright, he waited till the client was driving over. Once we know when a decision must be made, why decide early?

You can play with ideas, even explore different avenues up until that deadline. The first idea you have won’t necessarily be the best one. 

By rushing, we fool ourselves that we’re being decisive. When really, we are just uncomfortable with leaving things up in the air. 

Make friends with that vague, undefined world of waiting. Then you can allow the best ideas to percolate to the top. 

Tim Kane

Monthly Mental Kitchen

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