It shouldn’t surprise me because it always happens this way, but somehow it does surprise me, every time. I have recently finished a piece of work which had consumed almost all of my time and focus at work for a number of weeks. There was a fixed deadline and it was a substantial and complex piece of work. For these reasons, it was also a bit stressful, but that’s the way work is from time to time. What surprised me (and shouldn’t have done) is the way I felt after I had finished it.
I was (of course) relieved and pleased to have completed it by the deadline. It felt like a small but troublesome burden had been lifted from my shoulders. After I had pressed the big ‘Submit’ button, I went for a walk, and was astounded that my mind was suddenly bubbling over with ideas, with links I hadn’t noticed before between this thing and those things, with interesting phrases, metaphors and similies. I was noticing things in the world again, asking questions and thinking about how to answer them. My mind felt playful and light and expansive.
What I need to remember is that it is always like this. Deadlines are a fact of life and I just have to deal with them when they come up, but the pressure they impose is temporarily disastrous for my creativity. This means that I need to have solved any problems relating to the task which require creative thought long before the suffocating fog of the deadline descends. It’s also why I sometimes go quiet on this blog for weeks at a time. It’s not that I don’t have time to write here, but more that I don’t have the mental space to play around with ideas. Everything feels suppressed and heavy. Once the deadline is over, I feel as if a door or window has been thrown open and all the sights and sounds and scents of the outdoors come flooding in again.
I’m writing this as a reminder to future me that this is the way my brain works, and I need to plan better for the pre-deadline and post-deadline effects.