Executive Functioning versus Creativity


Everyone accepts and respects the notion of the tortured artist until they have to rely on one. I observe this not only in my coaching practice, but in other areas of my life as well.  

I see how supervisors, clients, colleagues, fellow volunteers, teachers and parents try to be patient, until eventually, they throw up their hands in frustration. 

It has been said that success is driven by the 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration formula.  But for creative people with executive function issues, the 1% motivates the 99%, and inspiration can't be ordered up like a hamburger in a diner. What looks like procrastination, is often really waiting for the 1% inspiration to strike so the creative person can joyfully give the 99% perspiration in response. The basic problem is, often the 1% inspiration does not strike. The contributing problem is that highly creative types are perfectionists and, therefore, they experience enormous difficulties settling for what they can produce without being inspired. 

Paralyzed by their pursuit and need for inspiration, anxiety often sets in, turning the world-be creator into a statue as the clock ticks.

To be sure, not everyone who struggles with executive functioning is creative, but most highly creative types struggle, to some degree, with executive functioning. 

Working within time constraints, meeting deadlines, confronting and communicating delays, completing the tedious tasks that surround the creative aspects of a project are common problems that derail some of the most talented creative types, sabotaging their success and garnering them with reputations for being unreliable. 

Fortunately, there are effective techniques for circumventing this series of events. 

The first is learning to manipulate time in a way that serves the creative brain, as well as the strictures of the workaday world. Because the creative brain requires time for things to penetrate, for inspiration to strike, creators must allow time for this in scheduling their projects. When an assignment comes in, the creator must ponder it thoroughly, put it aside, and then continue work on a prior project. This gives the unconscious a chance to solve the creative problem and, when the person returns to it, the inspiration for the solution is much more likely to announce itself. 

The second technique is to transpose self-hatred into true humility. Creators who struggle with executive functioning criticize themselves when they can't produce, which only contributes to the problem. Why should one's unconscious help someone who is so mean to it? Creators can admit, however, that they aren't always brilliant, that like the rest of us, they are ordinary human beings who sometimes produce only ordinary work. Accepting this is very difficult for people who have known inspiration and high achievement, but life is very much a long lesson in humility, a lesson which creators must learn right along with everyone else.

Lastly, creators must resist the urge to work long into the night as deadlines approach. A poorly rested brain is not an inspired brain, or even a functional one. Regular sleep and exercise, healthy food, and an eight-hour work day may not be associated with the romantic ideals of creative achievement, but they should be. Studies support their effectiveness. 

The tortured artist may be a cultural icon, but actual people don't like to be tortured, no matter how creative they may be. Creative people can be both reliable and happy. It just takes a strategic approach to time, a little humility, and good old-fashioned self-care.


For more information regarding Executive Functioning please visit us online at http://goosecreekconsulting.com/executive-function-coaching.php or give us a call at 703-574-6271 ext. 1.