I was chatting with an exceptionally creative person who introduced me to the phrase “late deciding.” He said of himself that he liked not to rush the “not knowing” part of creating and, rather than coming to conclusions prematurely so as to shut down the experience of anxiety, he preferred to “hang out” with the anxiety, allow himself all the time it took to actually know, and only then make the requisite creative decisions.
He recognized what a strain this put on those who were waiting on him to decide and who needed his decisions “sooner than that.” He empathized with them and sympathized with them but he refused to change his ways just so as to make their parts of the process easier on them. He did the best he could to keep them updated—which generally meant saying, “Sorry, I don’t know yet”—and he informed them of his decisions as soon as he was able. But beyond that he had to honor his process, since it produced the best and deepest results—results for which he regularly won top awards.
Naturally it is good that we get things done in a timely fashion. Nor do we want to use the idea of “late deciding” as yet another rationale for procrastinating or not engaging fully with the process. But it is also the case that not making premature decisions just to ease our anxiety is a vital part of the creative process. Beethoven sometimes took decades to make his musical decisions! Yes, that is a long time; let us hope that your decisions come more quickly than that. But let us also hope that they do not come before they are actually ready to come—that is, that they do not come just because you want the anxiety of not knowing to go away.
Eric Maisel’s latest book is SECRETS OF A CREATIVITY COACH. To check it out:
Eric, I would be happy to comment on your narrative, but I have not yet decided with what verbage I should respond. However, I’m sure an appropriate response will come to me – in due course. 🙂
I can relate to the waiting for decades to bring a story into being. I envisioned a story in the early 1990’s from a dream. I wrote it as a short story and my writing group promised me it was a novel.
Unprepared for that reality, I lengthened it to a longer short story with the same response from the writing group. After being convinced it was a novel, I took it to the Iowa Summer Writing Festival and had my writing instructor explain that I was not writing a standard 300 page novel, but an epic-length historical fiction predicted at 600+ pages.
Upon retirement in 2008, I knew that to be my #1 priority. But a coming-of-age travel memoir took precedence and the novel waited 4 more years. Now I’m working on it tirelessly and came across your concept of Life Purpose Fiction and realize that is what my character demands of me.
Interestingly enough, the memoir, At Home in the World: Travel Stories of Growing Up and Growing Away, is story of “agency” as I matured from good little church girl to faith-reliant but also agent-in-charge-of-my-own-life young woman.
Twenty years is nothing when the time is right to tell the story that was given to me decades ago and has never left my consciousness since.
Thanks for your work, Eric, that makes sense for me and my writing.