I suspect many creative people are unkind to themselves as I have been, treating transitory, preparatory time as unproductive, useless, painful. A programming analogy comes to mind:
As I get deeper and deeper into tinkering with home and space automation, I’ve been coding in multiple languages and at scattershot layers of the stack, from hexdump’ing infrared signals to working with perfectly lovely iOS SDKs. The vast majority of my coding time so far has been spent just on getting setup: toolkits downloaded, compilers and libraries updated, firmware flashes, etc, etc.
I used to think this inordinate amount of time futzing with the scaffolding was unique to building software. With the distance of having mostly managed for several years, and overseen a ton of video production, I now understand that futzing with the tools is where we spend the majority of time in human creative endeavor. To shoot a great video, scripting, staging, lighting, coordinating, test shooting, production organizing take up at least half the work, editing another 40% and the actual shooting of the damn video-perceived as the delightful kernel of creativity-is a measly 10% of the time spent.
So, as you go about your work, take a little breath and try to appreciate the scaffolding. I tend to treat everything that is not flow as its enemy, when in fact, all that plodding, flowless work is what makes flow even possible. If I didn’t putter around the apartment changing light settings for thirty minutes, I would never be able to write a damn thing.