I lay awake in bed, full of jittery energy, feeling impatient but unclear as to why. The day was done; I had accomplished good things, and more good things were in the works. So why the unrest?
I started to talk out loud (my husband is very patient) - partially to drain my mind of restless thoughts, partially to work through the Why of it all.
I found myself describing the process of baking a cake. There are three steps:
- Mix ingredients into batter
- Bake batter in oven
- Eat delicious cake
The creative process, I mused, is the same:
- Thoughts and concepts are mixed into a plan
- Action steps progress the plan toward finalization
- Results are measured, analyzed and/or enjoyed upon completion
Though all steps are equally important, Steps 1 and 3 have the advantage of being actionable; the energy input can be directly measured in output. Step 2, however, is tricky. It is necessary, yet less rewarding throughout its duration.
"If you open the oven door every five minutes," I continued, "the cake would never actually bake. Ok, it would eventually, but the constant loss of heat would damage the final product. The cake needs to be left alone to incubate. Without the hands off time, it can never achieve its delicious destiny."
There comes a time in any project where all possible action has been taken and only time will deliver the next phase. This phase, the Batter Baking phase, can be challenging to the point of distraction. Hence, I realized, my restless mind.
Within the creative process, one of our biggest challenges - and greatest lessons - is to relax during Step 2, instead of seeking more action. No cake can bake with an open oven door, no seed can grow if repeatedly unearthed, no thought can be finished with constant interruption.
Time and space, when embraced instead of challenged, yield maximum results.