Like Junk Food, It Feels Good, But Leaves You Empty
Inflation—what happens when you let your idea stay in your imagination too long without starting to sketch, outline, or draft. It becomes so bloated and outrageously, fantastically awesome, you can’t possibly begin to render it and bring it into three-dimensional form.
Here’s what I mean:
I applied to sell a few of my nearly-but-not-yet-finished projects at a craft show. When I wasn’t accepted, I felt sad for a few seconds but then started daydreaming of all I could do to improve these projects now that I had more time, an unlimited amount of time.
It felt good and productive to sit and sip coffee while thinking through these projects and the many new ideas I had for them. It wasn’t until I noticed myself imagining an elaborate “how to interact with this art” manual for my projects that I realized what I was doing: inflating the projects into such complex enormity they’d never be achievable.
It’s one thing to grow an idea, to develop it, or to revise it. It’s something else—procrastination—when you find yourself still at the library three hours later copying down detailed notes about the history of reading tea leaves when all you’d wanted in the first place was a few good pictures of vintage tea cups to begin sketching for a silkscreen idea you had.
Inflation bloats a project to such excess that it would most likely be impossible to carry it out. Or, in my case, even if I could have created the convoluted project my nervous energy daydreamed, no one would want it. (I mean, really, would you buy an illustrated book that came with a how-to-use manual?)
The problem is, inflation feels productive. It’s not the avoidance-style procrastination where you busy yourself with other things. You really are thinking about your project, maybe even researching it … for weeks, months, years. You know it’s inflation if after a reasonable amount of time, you’ve not actually applied anything you’ve been thinking about or researching to your project.
Only you know when you’ve slipped from productive daydreaming to inflation, but daily practice keeps you mindful and alert. When I sat down to write that day is when I noticed I’d inflated my projects into something far bigger than fit their form. The ideas eluded concrete description in my journal or shrieked weirdly from the margins of the page, so obviously off track that it left me frustrated rather than motivated to keep working or intrigued enough to dig in and get the work started.
Daydreaming about your work most likely leaves you feeling exuberant, hopeful, or even motivated about your craft. Inflation leaves you bloated and empty like after eating a bag of chips that seemed so appealing and tasted so satisfying at first, but ultimately held little nourishment.