Curse of the Creative Mind, Pt. 2

How to Write a Novella in 24 Hours

I’m not a TV watcher so I’m sorry, but I do not know who Andrew Mayne is (he’s a magician, I think), except that I recently read his book, How to Write a Novella in 24 Hours.

I looked him up and he appears to be…uh… significantly younger than me, so let me confirm some of his advice is true, as somebody who has recognized the tendencies of creatives, a long time ago.

Excerpt from his book:

The problem with being creative is you can come up with a million reasons to give up on something. You convince yourself you’re not quitting, you’re just going in a “better” direction. You’re fooling yourself. You want to do the new thing because you realized the old thing is hard.

Great things come from getting through the hard parts. And the best solution isn’t to just “power through” them. The smart solution is to apply your creativity in a new direction on the same problem.

I see his point, and I see how he was applying this thought to starting, and finishing, a novella. Within the context of his book he wants to help the reader “get ‘er done.” And let’s face it, nobody wants to be labeled as a procrastinator, right? Not even da Vinci…hey, wait a minute. What about da Vinci?

Creatives and Artists Tend to Be Procrastinators

Sometimes It’s True. Sometimes It Isn’t.

Creatives and artists are those who can’t not create. We have these ideas and visions in our heads. Lots of them. They aren’t formulated for the benefit of others (usually) or for meeting deadlines (usually). They’re like visions, visions that we feel compelled to bring to life, which takes time, and the more complex the vision, the more time it takes. Sometimes we have lots of visions, like da Vinci did which leaves a lot of things  unfinished, but in progress.

I love this article by Jon Brooks.

That’s a 30-year-old Leonardo da Vinci.

Screen Shot 2016-03-14 at 2.13.13 PM

It’s a self-portrait. And if you’re wondering why it doesn’t look as perfect as the Mona Lisa

That’s because it’s unfinished.

Leonardo has lots of unfinished works.

When I visited Florence a few years ago to see this painting, The Adoration of Magi, the tour guide explained to us the reason Da Vinci left behind so many incomplete paintings.

She told us he was,“A CHRONIC PROCRASTINATOR”.

As soon as she spoke those words I knew she couldn’t have been an artist herself.

Artists by nature don’t look for simplistic truths. Artists look for nuanced explanations. They look for the gray zones.

And she missed the gray zone in Leonardo’s supposed procrastination.

A procrastinator is someone who can’t start a creative project.

Leonardo da Vinci was someone who couldn’t stop starting creative projects.

He was not a chronic procrastinator. He was a creative polygamist.


da Vinci’s “Procrastination” Makes Sense

I visualize a lot of things and 99% of the time, my projects turn out exactly how I envisioned them. I will think about it for days, dream about it, look up things, draw things, research, etc. About ¼ of the way into the project, I can tell it’s going exactly the way I envisioned it. That’s when I lose interest in it or it gets interrupted with another creative vision. Why? Because my skill is in getting the idea in the first place, assessing whether or not it can be done, then tackling the project enough to see it happening. Finishing it feels like the easy part, so I lose interest BUT sometimes finishing it isn’t the easy part and it becomes so critical, in it’s fine tuning, that if I don’t go into another visualizing session, I know I won’t be satisfied with the outcome. That might sound crazy to some, but it’s how it works, and it’s exactly how a project can appear to be unfinished. If I want to rush a project, for the sake of finishing it, I can, but it won’t look like I envisioned it. I’ve done this and was so dissatisfied with the end result that I destroyed the project or painted over it. To Andrew Mayne’s point, when it gets hard, don’t give up.

I have no where near the talent that da Vinci had. His mind must have been a very busy place; both artistically and scientifically. I think it’s ridiculous for non-artist types to label him as a procrastinator. It tells me that they have no clue about how his mind worked, or what it takes to complete something as magnificent as the Mona Lisa or The Last Supper. I agree with Jon Brooks on his assessment of da Vinci. I agree with Andrew Mayne about why some people don’t follow through. That being said, I think it’s possible to write a novella in 24 hours but only the bones. Time is essential in turning out anything of quality so write that novella, but plan on spending a lot more time fine-tuning and editing it afterward, if you want something of quality (and I think Mayne agrees with that).

Your Purpose for Being Creative

If you feel driven to create, because you want to make money or impress people, by all means, ALWAYS finish your projects (maybe you’re so talented and gifted that you can hurry through it). If however, your mind works like mine, this is an irritating and foreign thought. I can’t deny that I appreciate praise and/or money when I get it, but it is not what motivates me. I can’t even tell you what motivates me to be creative. I’m just hardwired that way. Some days it’s a blessing. Some days it’s a curse.


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