Why do artists struggle so much with being on time?

In search of the punctual poet...

As we prepared for the start of our poet’s critique meeting yesterday, the moderator informed us that two of the poets were running late. “We’ll wait a bit and start in about 10 minutes,” he said.

The conversation became about artists and how tardy we usually are. 

Someone said, “Artists, poets, when it comes to time, whatever.”

Now, to give you some context, here I am sitting in Massachusetts and I’m hearing the same thing about artists I’ve heard in Zimbabwe and in Kenya and in South Africa and in the UK. 

It’s a universal bug in our programming! 

Or is it? 

When I worked as an arts and culture journalist in Zimbabwe, I was always struck by how many artists were so awesomely creative but totally disorganized. You’d be forgiven for thinking the two are biologically prepackaged, except every so often I would come across talented artists who managed to run a professional operation – without a manager, without prompting.

“How was it,” I wondered, “that so many of us were this disorganized?” 

There is the immediate answer about how creativity is about breaking rules. To create new things you must do things in new ways and creative people just find it easier to be creative about everything – including about what time 10am actually is. 

That leads us right into the next question. Where do you draw the line? How can we teach ourselves as artists to be as wildly creative as we wish to be with our art, but give ourselves the discipline to be punctual for our meetings, reliable with our promises and diligent with our business affairs?

How do we balance this framework in our heads of everything in our lives being changeable, malleable, moveable while remaining unbowed by the fact that 10am is always 10am. We can’t turn up at 10:30am and pretend it’s ok. 

The truth is everyone struggles with punctuality, but it seems as artists we’ve made it our thing. Why?

I am still looking for answers. Are you an artist? How do you balance these things in your life?



Image: Eric Prouzet

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