Whoa! Step Away From That Idea!

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Drawing I made for the Index-Card-A-Day challenge.

There’s nothing like a long, slow, simmering pot of individual ingredients that becomes a delicious mélange of flavors, like say, a marinara sauce. The separate elements of tomatoes, onions, garlic, spices, combine to create a complex, yet enticing blend of awesomeness where no one flavor overwhelms another. While I think there are a lot of parallels between food and art, what I’m really getting at here is the idea of incubation.

Deadlines and pressure can kick us into an adrenaline rush of creative output, but an opposite, and equally useful strategy, is that of wait-time. In education, wait time is the period a teacher might pause for students to respond to a question before giving hints, offering answers, or asking the next question. Generally, the more complicated the query or problem to be solved, the longer the wait time. In a classroom, wait time might be a few seconds, but for our purposes here, wait time is expanded.

When working on a creative project, wait time can be an important factor in solving, clarifying, or exploring your idea. Putting all of the raw ingredients into the pot, turning your brain down to simmer, then walking away, allows your mind some time to work on solutions in the background while you’re not paying attention. When you return to the work, you will see what you’ve started with fresh eyes. You might also have one of those Eureka! moments when you’re driving, or taking a shower, or feeding the cats, when a revelation comes to you seemingly out of the blue. Giving yourself an incubation period allows time for your inklings to stew and become a cohesive pot of goodness, a complex blend of individual ingredients transformed into something special because of the simmering. Stepping away from a problem can actually speed up your creativity and production in the long run.

In what ways do you ruminate? Are there ways you can approach a problem in sections or stages that allows for an gestation period in the work flow?

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