Under pressure

It seems that lately I’ve spent more time thinking about my projects than working on projects. The creativity is building up without an outlet. I always feel like these obligations keep me from being creative, from creating. But just today I read the following passage in The Count of Monte Cristo.

Dantes and the Abbe Faria are talking in the Abbe’s prison cell. Dantes has just seen all the things the Abbe has fashioned while in prison including pens, ink, paper, tools, knives, a knotted fabric ladder and an oil lamp:

“I was reflecting, in the first place,” replied Dantes, “upon the enormous degree of intelligence and ability you must have employed to reach the high perfection to which you have attained; -if you thus surpass all mankind while but a prisoner, what would you not have accomplished free?”

The Abbe responds: “Possibly nothing at all; -the overflow of my brain would probably, in a state of freedom, have evaporated in a thousand follies; it needs trouble and difficulty and danger to hollow out various mysterious and hidden mines of human intelligence. Pressure is required, you know, to ignite powder: captivity has collected into one single focus all the floating faculties of my mind; they have come into close contact in the narrow space in which they have been wedged, and you are well aware that from the collision of clouds electricity is produced - from electricity comes the lightning, from whose flash we have light amid our greatest darkness.”

This makes perfect sense to me. Oh, the infinite wisdom of the Abbe!

I like my life to always be smooth; I like my days to be obligation-free. I thought all that space gave me more room to be creative. But when I think about it, my clouds really are wispy during those times. And during the times when my life is busy, my ideas become more compact, more like lightning! A little pressure, it turns out, is a good thing.

I have no idea why I didn’t realize this before. I always did my best work the night before a school project was due. My last minute papers always got the best grades. I always thought this is what taught me to be a procrastinator but maybe I became a procrastinator because wispy clouds do not make lightning, because pressure is required to ignite powder.

What do you think? Pressure vs. freedom? Which brings out your creativity, which makes you more productive?


  1. I agree that a little pressure seems to help my creativity flow. I also spend a lot of time planning and thinking about projects, but I sometimes need the pressure of a deadline to actually bring them to completion.

  2. My last-minute papers always got awful grades! But effort never equals output with me; I have to remind myself all the time to work mindfully (as they say), and really put my concentration into what I'm doing, to have the best result. Work smarter not harder. Etc.

    We need the pressure to make us stop being lazy, but we need the freedom to be able to perform at all. We break under too much and go soft under too little. Or at least I do.

    & what the Abbe didn't mention is that lightning is easier to see in the dark. Even if he had had the same creativity in his normal life, it wouldn't have seemed as impressive. I find myself downplaying the everyday creativity I do have - like solving problems, in addition to the crafting - which is really a disservice. Creativity isn't worthwhile just when it makes something pretty, you know? And the more we pay attention to it, the easier it becomes to access.
    So I hope :)

  3. Damn it, I tried to respond to this last night, but apparently even Blogger is a procrastinator and wouldn't let me.

    I would like to say that I'm a well organized person, but I'm just not. I work really well under pressure, mostly because I don't want to look like a tool and not have something done by a deadline. So I always end up busting it out last minute. Like now, I'm about to go and make a purse for my friend's birthday that is Friday. I wish I had done it a month ago, but I just kept putting it off.

  4. I have found that when I have plenty of time, my quilting feels like a hamster-wheel of sewing; sewing just to be sewing (and not in that peaceful way-more of a manic need). When my quilting time is limited, I treasure it and work on what is important (at that time).


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