attention

attention

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In the past, I’ve made a big deal about focus and how important it is to maintain. I still stand by my words. Or most of them anyway, generally in the same order they were written.

That said, research is showing a particular quality of creative people: something called a leaky attention. I know, sounds kinda messy.

Apparently, the propensity to shift attention often can lead to more creative thought. It makes sense to me;  creativity often means noticing the things other people ignore. And most creatives I’ve met are pretty easily distracted.

Hey what’s that over there?

Whether it’s noticing the sound of a paper bag crunching underfoot, a particular shade of blue painted on the wall, an unusual bug crawling across the table, or the fact that the man in the purple trench coat has been following you for the last three blocks—creatives have a special ability to take in their surroundings and use it toward a creative act.

But there’s a catch, this leaky attention can also become a hindrance when attempting to actually produce creative work, it can distract you from finishing the work itself—or even getting started for that matter. Hey, someone should write a course on how to overcome that. Wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more.

As the Psychology Today article points out:

Artistic creativity is a delicate balance of spontaneity and deliberation. 

I’ve found this to be true in my own life. There is a time to be open, to breathe in the inspiration around you. But once that spark has ignited a flame, you must nourish and protect it. You must concentrate your efforts on building that flame into a bonfire, sheltering it from the winds of distraction. Like a vacuum cleaner, you’ve gotta flip the switch from intake to output. However, unlike my metaphors, fires and vacuums don’t mix. You can take my word on that one.

There are times when it’s best to pay attention and times when you’re better off taking a rain check on it. It takes time and practice to learn the difference. Still, there’s nothing keeping you from trying it now.

But first, I recommend ditching that trench-coated creeper on your trail. Based on his fashion sense, he’s either up to no good or he’s a distant relative of Grimace. Either way, not one to be trusted.

And here’s the link to that article one more time:

The Cognitive Balancing Act of Creativity

beautiful things

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We recently took our kids to the local zoo for the first time. All-in-all, it was pretty nice. 

For a small-time operation (at least compared to the San Diego and LA zoos) they had some notable animals. And the people working there were laid back and friendly. 

We got to pet a miniature horse who was being taken on a walk, see the tiger get her breakfast, and were even greeted by some free-roaming peacocks. Most importantly, they had a great play area—oh, and also owls (my daughter’s favorite).

There are many positive things about zoos: they educate us about wildlife, they’re usually a nice outing, and they play a large part in protecting and breeding endangered species. Still, I can’t help but feel a little sad when I see a wild creature trapped in a cage, even if it is being treated well and eating much healthier and living much longer than it would in its natural habitat. 

It feels like I’m cheating by enjoying the experience in such a manner. It’s not the way things were meant to be. A tiger in a cage chowing down is actually still fearsome (that growl will make anyone shiver a little), but it’s nothing like a tiger catching her pray out in the wilds of mother nature. 

Zoos remind me of one of my recent favorite movies, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. It’s during the scene where Mitty finally meets up with the man he processes photos for, Sean O'Connell, whom he has been hunting down almost the whole movie. Sean is in the process of photographing a snow leopard. But then he stops and doesn’t take the picture. He drops one of my all-time favorite lines,

"Beautiful things don't ask for attention."

It makes me a little sad that animals must be caged and put on display to be preserved, appreciated, and enjoyed today. But even more, it makes me think about the surprising beauty of life—those special moments, those rare spottings, where everything is just right and instead of feeling the need to capture, preserve, and make a sad attempt at enjoying it forever, you just sit there and soak in the moment with a sense of awe. 

You can’t cage something like that. And there’s no use parading it around, because if you do—you’ll lose the beauty.

I talked with an acquaintance recently who is going through a difficult divorce. After expressing how much of a struggle it has been for him, he said, even so, he still experiences moments of joy and peace. Though he sleeps by himself and is lonely, there are times where he’ll throw a warm blanket over his cold feet, or times when he’ll hold his grandson and just be thankful to be alive.

It reminds me of the part in the first Die Hard movie about making fists with your toes in the carpet. Sometimes it’s the little things in life, you know?

Personally, I try to look for beauty wherever I can. I try to enjoy every moment of it. I hug my kids tight, I try never to miss even a halfway decent sunrise or sunset, I try to recognize the funny little moments that just happen. And I try to remember often and daily just how good a life I have. 

They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But I also think beauty is found by those who look for it.

So often presentation plays a big part in the things we consider beautiful. But I think the most beautiful things are natural, they need no presentation but just are.

I encourage you to live a life not only searching for beauty, but also giving some of your own to the world, in your own, natural and untamed way.

 

Everything has its beauty, but not everyone sees it.
-Andy Warhol