Creative process: Can working* diminish our creativity?

In our efforts to be original and innovative, we might sometimes think, “if only I didn’t have this regular job, I would have more time to be creative.”

More time to write poetry, stories, or novels; more time to paint; more time to compose music, more time to…

But in fact, the relation between successful creative work and the time we have available for doing it might not be as simple as we think.

Having less time available (within reason) for creating works of the imagination might actually be stimulative to producing better work.

T.S. Eliot, the poet, dramatist, and literary critic, held a number of full-time jobs throughout his creative life, including teaching, banking, and commercial publishing.

One might think that this would have interfered with his creative output.

And yet, in an interview with The Paris Review, Eliot commented that if he had been able to give all his time to poetry, “…it would have had a deadening influence on me.”

Moreover he added, “I think that for me, it’s been very useful to exercise other activities, such as working in a bank, or publishing even…the difficulty of not having as much time as I would like has given me a greater pressure of concentration. ..The danger, as a rule, of having nothing else to do is that one might write too much rather than concentrating and perfecting smaller amounts.”

Background: To review the extent of Eliot’s creative output, there is a detailed article on Wikipedia

* I am using “working” in the sense of having a regular job; clearly, doing creative work is often even more demanding than performing  many jobs as an employee.

– Dennis Mellersh

About Dennis Mellersh

Dennis Mellersh is an independent writer, journalist, editor, and editorial consultant.
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