Monday, March 2, 2015

The Deadlines are Coming, the Deadlines are Coming!

I have a pad of post-it notes that has the phrase  "I love deadlines."  In much smaller font at the bottom of the page, "I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by."  I am the first to admit that I am a procrastinator.  I may start out working, quite determinedly, on something, only to have it placed aside in favor of something else until, well, right before the deadline. 

The same can be said for most of my students.  Somehow, we believe that there is a certain energy that comes from the excitement of rushing full-force towards a deadline.  I could try to argue that I don't have a comprehensive understanding of the topic and am currently experiencing some serious incubation time (a legitimate strategy for those working on a creative endeavor), waiting to completely explore the task mentally before actually putting pen to paper.  Case in point, National History Day Region 9 Competition is, GULP, THIS coming Saturday.

The Deadlines are Coming, the Deadlines are Coming!


  Graham Wallas outlines the four stages of creativity - preparation, incubation, illumination, and verification.  Honestly, we've all been there.  And some of us hang out in one area for much longer than others.  For some, it's step one:

Preparation:  The wonderful phase where you have this great idea -- for the sake of today's argument, let's say a fabulous inspiration for the perfect topic for the National History Day -- and you gather as much information from as many sources as possible.  You are totally aware you are working on the specific project, researching, source-gathering, and narrowing focus.  

And then it stops.

Incubation:   I often live in Incubation for what some might consider to be slightly longer than most summer vacations.  As active as Preparation is, Incubation is the polar opposite.  You know you have a project to do, but you have no clue what to do with the pieces you've gathered, and so it sits.  And so do you.  For as long as it takes, and sometimes longer.  

Illumination:  The most frustrating thing is finally having the urge to unabashedly move forward and actually create, and have to choose between work, family, and sleep to fit your new-found obsession into your life.  It's that flash of brilliance that suddenly makes you wonder why you've waited so long.

And finally....

Verification:  It's that final piece to the puzzle where you finally begin to test you theories, ideas, and new passion.  For artists, it's the mixing of colors, and asking others (or yourself) for approval.  You're working on an exact image, and working your hardest to bring what is in your mind to reality or true fruition.

And how does this all play out for me today?  Well, there's that NHD competition, looming majestically at the end of the week.  This afternoon, I was working with the junior high kids, trying desperately, trying to convince some of them to leave Incubation and Illumination and actually get something, anything, finished for the competition.  

This isn't unusual behavior for gifted kids, but there is this giant assumption that somehow there will be hours magically added to the calendar this week to allow for a leisurely stroll through the stages of creativity, blossoming into wonderful projects by 7 am Saturday.

I'm fairly certain that after today they all understand that I no longer pull all-nighters.