Forward Planning vs Creative Spontaneity

In most of the posts I see here on Medium, the authors often extol the virtues of spontaneity, usually taking the form of sparks of inspiration cultivated by their surroundings — whether that is the lethargic doldrums of a Regular Joe's office environment or the fast paced thought provoking bustle of startup tech culture on the American West Coast.

My experience of creativity is one that is distinctively more defined in time management and effective planning. Although, yes, I do find my work tedious and that encourages my mind to wander, I do not find those times to be the perfect moment to drop everything around me and focus on writing a new piece: instead I let the ideas ferment under the surface until the next time I’m ready for a writing session. To get an idea of how I feel creativity can be nurtured and formulated into a regular process, think of the beginning of a week when you arrive at work, or when you wake up in the morning ready to approach your studies. Maybe you’ll draw up a plan of attack, analyse each job you need to accomplish over the week and how you can fit that into a schedule packed with personal goals, meetings and the inevitable spanner-in-the-works moment each week brings along with it.

Here is what I propose and how I often decide to approach my creative output: set time aside each week to sit and write drafts, sketch, doodle or make notes on whatever it is you are working on. For me, I usually sit in front of my desk for an hour or so every couple of days and draft out the beginnings of an article I want to flesh out in a future session. The key is that this time you set aside to work quickly becomes a time when your creative energy is regularly flowing: because that’s what you’ve defined the time as. The time you set aside doesn’t even need defined deadlines or an ultimate end product — most of my writing never gets published or is amalgamated into a greater piece — but you are doing yourself a favour by committing to lay out your thoughts and ideas regularly somewhere you can revisit them.

There is of course some merit to creative spontaneity, as it often produces your best work. Over time however consistency is king. Most players in the world of internet writing and video production will insist that to earn and retain your audience you need to be publishing at least every other day, if not daily, and to do that you need to plan. Relying on your own powers of creative spontaneity, whenever they occur, will not help you achieve that.

Here is my proposal for increasing your creative output by planning ahead and creating a specific time to be creative:

  1. Find a space where you feel comfortable, where you can relax and flow without outside interruption.
  2. Go there two or three times a week and spend at least 30 minutes simply writing, sketching or painting without worrying about your subconscious editor.
  3. Spend every third session collating your work, editing and finalising before publishing.

In a sphere of writers so saturated with content; diversity, quantity and planned output are perhaps more important than spontaneous perfection.

Thank you for reading, if you enjoyed this piece then please follow me on Medium (@stephenpatterson). You can also follow me on Twitter @Kazzersteve.