Deadlines – A Creative Necessity?

Seth Godin has made a career out of advising people to overcome their fear of shipping. Although much of his rhetoric is aimed at entrepreneurs, he has the same advice for all creative individuals (whom he thinks should be entrepreneurs, if they are not already). He has even said, according to Andrea J. Stenberg writing on “The Baby Boomer Entrepreneur,” “real artists ship.”

While Godin had broadened his definition of “artists” “to mean anyone who is creative and bringing something new to the market,” the statement applies equally well to that much narrower group we think of as “fine artists.” Some of us do have trouble shipping; that is to say that some of us have difficulty actually completing work and getting it out the door. There are a number of reasons for this.

Some of us don’t really want to finish. This may come from a philosophy that was best summed up by Picasso: “To finish it [a painting] means to be through with it, to kill it, to rid it of its soul, to give it its final blow the coup de grace for the painter as well as for the picture.

Most of us are aware that, at least on some levels, Picasso was right.  The work is never done. There is always one adjustment that needs to be made, one passage doesn’t sound quite right, one little area that needs to be tweaked, one phrase still needs work. So long as this is the case, we cannot release the work. Still though, sooner or later, we have to let go or remain “undiscovered” artists all our lives.

Regardless of how valid our reasons may seem, Godin says that our reluctance to ship comes from what he calls “resistance,” which is our way of protecting ourselves. If we ship, we have to take a risk. Someone will see our work, and some one of the ones who see our work may not like it. If we don’t ship, we don’t have to face that rejection. But he goes on to say that time pressure and urgent deadlines allow us to get more and better work done.

There may be something to this deadline thing. Those who have to do their art in public (i.e. actors, dancers, performance artists) or who have definite published deadlines (conductors, directors, choreographers) have, I think, a far easier time “shipping” than those of us who work alone without real deadlines (painters, photographers, composers, sculptors, writers of all stripes). It is very easy for us to put off shipping for exactly those reasons that have been named.

Perhaps then all we need to do to be more productive is to give ourselves firm deadlines and adhere to them. I know that if I have an image I want to submit to a show, I have no trouble editing, printing, framing, shipping in order to get it there at the proper time. If there is no show, or no client waiting, getting the work finished is far more problematic. There is something else that needs my attention; there are chores that need doing; family life requires my presence. The list is endless.

If, however, I make a deadline, and I believe in the deadline, I am likely to become more productive, and perhaps more creative. And since I don’t have all the time in the world to make a given project work, my ingenuity might kick in to suggest ideas and approaches that would be unknown were I not restricting myself.  Douglas Eby is convinced that the more constraints we have the more creative we will be forced to be.  Up to a certain point, I have to agree.

The conclusion seems simple enough. If we don’t have them already, we need to give ourselves deadlines. That constraint alone will cause us to hone our creativity and produce more.

Will it work for you? I don’t know. But I do know that I’m going to try it.

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Date: Sunday, 23. October 2011 23:18
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