For a lot of autistic or ADHD folk, or anyone who works in speratic bursts of energy rather than consistent, organized efforts, being creative is easy, but getting anything done is a completely different story. In fact, I think it’s safe to assume that it’s these bursts of passion for a project that make creative projects fun, and overall infused with more passion and soul. But, it can be hard to find a point to it all when you can’t muster the focus to follow through on each rabbithole you fall down; and it can be hard to find any fun in your projects at all when the scheduled efforts (the usual advice) make it feel like a chore. However, I think there’s a way to harness what comes naturally to us without abandoning our projects or forgetting about them.
I’ll admit that none of these ideas are entirely original. My approach to it is my own and what I’m finding works for me, but the fundamental concepts supporting it are not. It belongs to a twitter thread (more specific to ADHD) and Dale Lyles, who proposed that procrastination is an important part of the creative process. Essentially, the idea is that you can have that million different projects you want to work on, whatever excites you in the moment, and procrastinate on one project by working on another project that excites you. “Always something to procrastinate on.” That way we keep our bursts of energy but we also make it productive.
Harnessing creative energy isn’t about organizing it, because by its nature it is disorganized. The key is to harness disorganization with accountability. I have a list in my journal compiling every single project I ever started, but I don’t treat this as a to-do list. It’s just a list so I don’t have to remember my projects. Instead, my to-do list for the day is whatever I’m excited about. Sometimes that’s a project I’ve been working on for a while; sometimes it’s a new thing that’ll take me only about two hours to make.
Whatever project I take on is valuable. Small projects are great practice. Larger ones are amazing accomplishments. But most importantly I keep myself excited to get to work each day. Of course, there will be times when you simply have to buckle down and get something done. Sometimes you have to push yourself to finish something you really need to finish. But the majority of the time you are creating with passion, just chaotically.
But, aside from fun, why should you work with your bursts of energy instead of simply training yourself to pump out products. In the long run, isn’t that even more productive? Why opt for something less productive in the name of “fun”. I’m inclined to believe that the idea that you can make creativity into a fixed schedule and that you can create via a fixed formula is a started as a capitalist thing. Its only purpose seems to be to produce content quickly and to fulfill marketing schemes. The big names in creativity are corporations: Disney, Pixar, etc. But what makes a piece of art stand out is the authenticity behind it. Every once in a while, out from the sea of company-produced media emerges an independent creator with a story that captures hearts in an unforgettable way. Undertale is a good example of that happening in the video game field. Of course, there are a few exceptions, but again so much of the advice given to blooming artists in articles like this one is along the lines of making a work schedule and acting like you’re going into office everyday. That’s not to say there shouldn’t be a sense of professionalism with artists, but they’re treating creativity like it can be planned and forced. You’ve created, sure, but at the cost of your unique creative voice.
Overall, the key is to harness what comes naturally to you and focus it into creating. Yes, even procrastination. Be childish, be flaky, procrastinate, follow your heart, but always mindfully and with purpose.