Is Dabbling a form of Procrastination?

When I share my philosophy around creative dabbling as a means to improve your live, I am sometimes met with skepticism.

But Becca…isn’t that really just a way to procrastinate from what you really have to do?

Aren’t you encouraging people to avoid doing the real, important work by starting more things they can’t finish?

I can understand this perspective.

In today’s modern society, we have been conditioned to strive for a disciplined life of mastery – where your days are spent singularly focused on one skill you have been refining your entire life. While this way of life may work for certain types of people, I certainly don’t think it should be applied to all humans.

Because creativity is alive and awake to the world, and can be found in all the nooks and crannies of life. And, when you create tunnel vision on a certain task or skill, you miss out on all the vibrant clues that lie just out of your sight.

Elizabeth Gilbert and Albert Einstein would agree with me.

I was re-reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s latest book Big Magic the other day and a section jumped out at me that hadn’t during my first time reading it. In it, Gilbert talks about getting over your creative failures by getting busy, quoting 17th century English scholar Robert Burton with the famous line, “Be not solitary, be not idle.” She encourages us creatives to find something to do – anything – to take our minds off the anxiety and pressure we so often put on ourselves and our work.

And then she talked about Einstein. Yes, that Einstein.

Albert Einstein believed in something called combinatory play – the act of opening up one mental channel by dabbling in another.

When he was having trouble solving a mathematical problem, Einstein often took to his violin and would play a few hours of sonatas until the answer to the math problem came to him.

Einstein dabbled, y’all!

The trick with dabbling or combinatory play, “is that it quiets your ego and your fears by lowering the stakes,” says Gilbert.

It quiets everything down and creates space for inspiration to come through.

Busy Hands, Quiet Mind, Open Heart

So, if you find yourself trying to force something that isn’t coming, go do something else and trust that it will come to you. It’s not procrastination from what needs to get done, it’s alchemizing motion into inspiration.

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