Ode to the Eleventh Hour
I used to be embarrassed that procrastination often left me frantically finishing a project at the eleventh hour. I used to get nervous that I wouldn't meet an obligation and would be branded unreliable. That was before I recognized that I thrive on the creative energy that surfaces while in crunch mode. Beginnings are never difficult; in fact, I love that step of the process. Seeing a project through to the finish isn’t the problem either. The issue is that typically I’ve gotten involved in something else that has the greater portion of my attention and I end up scrambling to make a deadline, whether real or self-imposed. Now I embrace that behavior. Oh yes, I happily wear The Eleventh Hour Girl label.
My creative process usually begins with an enthusiastic spark. Journals are filled with drawings and notes spelling out the numerous approaches I might take with a particular assignment or commission. I like to spend a few days thinking it over, letting the ideas simmer. I sketch out plans that are both realistic and fantastical. During this phase I generate plans that may or may not come to fruition, and may or may not be used for the task at hand – it’s all good. Then I embark on the mission, leaving wiggle room for whatever may happen along the way. Sometimes a project takes on a life of it’s own and tells you how to proceed. I make commitments and eagerly continue forward.
Creating quality work and getting to the finish line in a timely manner is always the objective. However, execution always takes longer than anticipated. Real life and other distractions impede progress and there I am again, at the familiar eleventh hour. I realize that is how I operate and I am fine with that. Why? Because when you are in high gear and under pressure you start to create from a different place. Your efforts are more intuitive and authentic when working under the wire. The artwork is more distinctive and less contrived. All pre-planning is a faint memory. A specific supply may not available so you improvise. You become resourceful. The mess on your table coughs up an answer you never would have considered. Inventing clever results only happens when you are open to the answers and willing to see possibilities. Desperation can be inspiring. And the eleventh hour promises thrilling solutions.
Here’s a story: back in college I had an assignment to draw architectural details in perspective. It required using illustration markers. The night before the presentation I realized I didn’t have the right brown. There were few hours left before the sun rose and all supply stores were closed. It was too late to call a friend and ask for a loaner. I was sitting at my drafting table with a cup of tea (to keep me awake). There it was…. you guessed it. I pulled out the teabag and started dabbing it around the surface. Awesome! During the classroom critique I got applause for the cool effect. It was a classic case of necessity being the mother of invention but it also reinforced my last minute routine. The eleventh hour rewarded my procrastination.
On another occasion, just a few years ago, I was in the zone, concentrating on an assignment. Firmly planted on the floor of my studio, I didn’t want to get up to search for a paintbrush as that might break the spell and delay my completion. A nearby shelf, just within reach, held a box of lonely supplies. No brushes, but a brayer that would not only do the trick, it ended up being a better tool for the task. I had that brayer for a handful of years and never used it. Since then it has become one of my favorite things. Was it ingenuity or the magic of the eleventh hour?
Regardless of how hard I’ve tried to develop work habits that establish ample timeframes, I always find myself pushing the edge. I have a love/hate relationship with deadlines. While I whine about an encroaching due date I secretly love having one. Experience has altered my perspective and I have come to regard deadlines as lifelines. I believe having a fixed time for something to be completed makes me do it. Rather than drown in the murky abyss of procrastination, I am motivated to get it done. A pending deadline can still conjure up a sense of panic, but the concept of a dangling lifeline makes me appreciate having an opportunity to engage and apply myself. Plus, I know that last minute breakthroughs are my constant companions. Making it happen is what counts, even if it is during the eleventh hour.
Thank You Eleventh Hour.
I will see you again soon.