Illustration of Derek Powazek by Adam Ellis

The Importance of Creative Procrastination

Coders and designers, we’re from different tribes. Name any issue and we’ll neatly divide into sides: form and function, information and experience, oil and water. Of course, no good website happens without both. So it’s worth noting when we find a piece of common ground on our own.

Exhibit A: Deane Barker, writing at Gadgetopia. He’s firmly planted on the code side of the equation, and recently wrote a post called “Are you procrastinating? Or are you just thinking?” about the importance of procrastination.

Sometimes, the worst thing you can do is start programming right away. Sometimes the best thing you can do is think about the problem – either actively, or just by letting it simmer on the back burner of your mind for a while.

I love what he has to say, and it mirrors my experience with design and writing. The hard part is the thinking that comes first, and that thinking often happens the background.

Exhibit B: Jeff Veen writing on his eponymous dotcom. Jeff’s on the design side of the equation, and wrote “Blinking Out Design” about a year ago. My favorite part is his enumeration of his six-step design process. The fourth step? Stew.

The key to this, really, is in the fourth step: stewing in it. That is, gathering as much data as possible, whether it appears to be related or not, and just letting my mind soak it in.

Two thoughts, over a year apart, from different sides of the divide, saying the same thing. Maybe it’s just the Web 2.0 equivalent of “measure twice, cut once,” but I think it goes deeper. What these two fine gents are saying, I think, is give yourself that loose time to be creative, or you’ll never get anything done.

And, of course, I agree. In fact, the creative flow that happens in the beginning of a project is where all the real heavy lifting takes place. The rest is just details and implementation. I’d even say that the worst design work I’ve ever done was on those projects that were so accelerated by deadlines that I never got into the creative procrastination stage.

Important working principle or giant rationalization? Time will tell.

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Hi, I’m Derek. I used to make websites. Now I grow flowers and know things. I’m mostly harmless. More.