As I work on my school- and work-related projects, I keep a notebook nearby. Sometimes I pause to write down an idea, brainstorm a bit, or sketch something I am trying to figure out or would like to design more completely at a later time. I have notebooks full of these "interruptions," some of which have turned into constructive outcomes: groups that form for creative community and support, an idea to discuss with someone, blog posts, and inspiration for future work.
I used to be annoyed that these interruptions appeared while I was working with intense focus on projects with deadlines. If they were evidence of procrastination, however, I still completed my work on time. If they were a work-stress release, they often resulted in making more work for me at a later time, and I didn't feel stressed about this future work; these interruptions looked fun to work on, and when I returned to re-read them, they inspired me. Some were even related to my current projects in varying ways. Others weren't related at all but still caught my conscious attention.
Hische says, “Whatever work you do when you are procrastinating from other things is probably what you should be doing for the rest of your life.” What do you think? How does this apply to how you work and your creative interests?
Tina Roth Eisenberg, a.k.a. "SwissMiss--a Swiss designer gone NYC," spoke at TYPO San Francisco last April on "The Power of Side Projects and Eccentric Aunts." Watch this video of her talk for additional insights into the importance of side projects in increasing creative momentum and why it is important to work on what interests you and what you love to do. (Here's a link to one of her side projects, Creative Mornings.)
Psychologist Howard Gruber devised a theory of creativity around these related projects he calls a "network of enterprise" as part of his "evolving systems approach to creative work." In the book Creative People at Work: Twelve Cognitive Case Studies, Gruber writes:
When we speak of creative work as purposeful, we have in mind a conception of work as complex human activity organized to achieve specific ends. . . . To describe the pattern of work in the life of a creative individual we have adopted the organizing concept of a “network of enterprise.” We use the term enterprise to stand for a group of related projects and activities. (p. 11)
In the article "Constructive Repetition, Time, and the Evolving Systems Approach," psychology professor Richard Brower, commenting on Gruber's theory, further explains that:
The interconnection of multiple enterprises served at least three important functions for the creative process. First, it allows the person to continue working over time, even though blind alleys are encountered and projects are shelved. Second, it allows for the reorganization of purpose, affect, and knowledge. Third, it allows for increased opportunities for novelty and the potential for the amplification and elaboration of innovative discoveries. (2003, p. 63)
Seemingly random side project ideas and creative procrastination can be full of possibilities. Listen to and record them when they appear, and return to them later to see where they next take you in your creative process.