Cleese talks about the work of Donald MacKinnon, a research psychologist who showed that creative professionals will play around with a problem longer than most. For many of us, not having a solution gets too uncomfortable at some point, and we’ll opt to resolve the situation at all costs. According to MacKinnon, creative folks are creative in part because they can tolerate that discomfort for longer. Here’s John Cleese:
What I’m suggesting to you is that before you take a decision, you should always ask yourself the question, “When does this decision have to be taken?” And having answered that, you defer the decision until then, in order to give yourself maximum pondering time, which will lead you to the most creative solution.
I get lots of feedback from readers who are skeptical about planning for creative time. “How can you be creative on command?” they ask. Or “My best ideas come when I least expect it!”
I often reply with a question: “Are you satisfied with the ideas you come up with? Wouldn’t you like to generate more ideas? Or more original ones?” You need room to be creative, and that means taking the time.
That’s precisely what Cleese advises.