The slow hunch theory of ideas (or how I took the guilt out of procrastination)

Sometimes the more I want to do something, the less I end up doing it.

This seems hard for others to fathom and as such always seems to lead to me getting defensive. People start suggesting that if it’s something I keep putting off that perhaps it isn’t something I want to do.

Perhaps I don’t value it? Perhaps it’s not meant to be?

This saddens me, and I wish people wouldn’t say it. Because the thing I keep putting off is something I definitely do want to do.

I want to write. I want to be someone who writes. I want to be a writer. And not purely to create art, but to create discussion, because I think I have something to say and discussions to start.

I’m cringing as I reread that sentence, and that’s part of the problem.

I often question whether I actually have an opinion that’s worth sharing. Do people actually want to know my take on things are? Have I actually got a perspective that challenges the norm and that is interesting to read?

There’s only actually one way of testing this. Say these things. Write these things. See if anyone is actually drawn to read them. But it’s easier said than done, because I’ve been thinking about it for too long and the task has become bulbous in my mind.

The weight of this undone task looms large above me; dark, threatening and boundless, causing my stomach to clench (yes, a bit bloody dramatic).

It somehow feels this is more than procrastination.

I tend to then start analysing this habit of putting things off. Why do I keep thinking so deeply about the task in hand and building it up in my mind, whist not taking steps to get anything written – not even sitting down to write?

I think one of the reasons I keep putting of writing, is that long-held sense that I might be good at it. I think I might have something of worth to say, and I’ve always been told I’m a good writer (squirm).

So, there is an element of fear there.

If I sit down regularly and share my thoughts, comments and opinion of the topics that are pressing on my mind and no one reads – or worse still, people read and dismiss it as drivel – then I was wrong. And it will be humiliating. I’ll have been all talk and no trousers. I will have failed to deliver.

Somehow, it seems this procrastination is to preserve my belief that I’m good at this – by not allowing myself the chance to have the theory disproved.

If this is true of my thought process then this is very limiting of me. I don’t like this at all. I want to stamp it out immediately. The idea that this is reason for my procrastination just makes the whole thing worse. I feel bad for having these thoughts in the first place, so I start to look for a kinder explanation: one which validates this inability to get things done and embraces it as part of the creative process.

Recently I stumbled across an explanation that did just that. I could have hugged Steven Johnson that day. His TED talk really hit the spot.

The explanation was that good ideas form as slow hunches.

The theory goes that good ideas don’t come in a flash, but build slowly over time in the back of our minds. Seeds of ideas that we leave to ruminate and take root. Whilst seemingly not doing anything about them, they are evolving and will emerge as a fully formed idea – an idea that we are suddenly able to jot down on paper when the time is right.

I like this way of thinking. It makes me feel better.

So much so, that I’m writing.

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