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.