To those who have never read Austin Kleon’s Steal Like an Artist, I would highly recommend doing so. It is a short, inspiring work and is particularly appealing to the practicing creative mind. Any reader would benefit from a quick flip through its squat, horizontally-oriented pages, however.
In this darling book, there is one passage that specifically speaks to me. It gives definition to the phrase “productive procrastination.” Seemingly oxymoronic, this pair of words is anything but. It represents the practice of keeping up with side projects in addition to your main ventures in life. When you’ve reached your limit working on one project, you shift focus to a less taxing side project. When that too becomes laborsome, return to the original project.
I have often used a similar method of shifting focus when up to my eyes in school work. When I simply can’t get through another sentence on the intricacies of apical meristems, I turn instead to reviewing my notes on research methods in psychology or statistics practice problems. While I feel I’m shirking one responsibility, I am actually fulfilling another. It gives my brain a break from monotony for a while. The difference between this and Kleon’s “productive procrastination,” is that the side projects he refers to are less work and more play.
As an instinctively creative person, and a human being, I need to allow myself productive playtime. For me, this means taking time to write a poem or blog post, draw, mess around with some choreography. These activities kindle my excitement inside me and push my mind as my academic classwork can’t.
In Steal Like an Artist, Kleon quotes Jessica Hische as having said, “The work you do while you procrastinate is probably the work you should be doing for the rest of your life.” While this statement brings to light the terrifying question of what I actually want to do with my life, it also makes me realize that my “side projects” carry more import than I give them credit for. Acknowledging this, I plan to allow myself more time to indulge in them. I am making a resolution to practice “productive procrastination,” and it starts with this post. Expect more to come.