I read somewhere that creative people get distracted easily. Also that they have a lot of unfinished projects because of said distraction. Is it true? Speaking for myself, yes I have the syndrome. I do get distracted easily. Sometimes. I mean, I’m a writer for cripes sakes, so yeah I have lots of ideas swirling around in my head. And sometimes even just looking at something or overhearing a conversation, or reading an interesting article sprouts new ideas.
So…what to do?
Naturally, the conventional wisdom is to find ways to focus. Personally I have a love/hate thing going with really focused people. I envy their sheer determination in keeping that focus going and often think that would be a great thing to have. On the other hand if I was walking around single-mindedly focusing on one thing, there is a boatload of things I wouldn’t notice or see. And what if one of those things could be the greatest inspiration of my life? See the dilemma?
So yeah, focus. But not too much, lest you miss something. But how do you focus and allow yourself to be distracted too?
You need a plan
All the experts and gurus talk about a plan. Sounds good, right? You put down on paper all the many steps you must take to achieve your goal(s). Sure, I can do that. But then that seems so extreme and rigid. I’m not sure us creatives really think in those terms. Do we?
Some of us like to outline and that sure could be considered a plan. Others of us write, compose, sculpt, sing, and dance by the seat of our pants. Both approaches have worked for successful people. So yeah, planning… Maybe yes, maybe not so much.
Is distraction part of the creative process?
I’m definitely no expert but the A leads to B type planning just doesn’t work for me. My mind goes in different directions at once. And honestly, I like it that way. My thinking process would probably drive a financial adviser nuts but probably not a creative. Because see, we’re creating. Making it up as we go along. We start out with an idea and the whole idea of an idea is to make it grow. Right? So we doodle. Or mind map. Or make notes on cocktail napkins. Or make big collages of the story or characters. Or, or, or. My point being that maybe going from A to Z and letting it magically lead us back to B might actually be the proper G-tortional way for creatives to approach things.
Is it genetics, technology, or just preference?
I know that science is fond of finding genes that dictate our behavior. Personally, I think that’s a bunch of poppycock (great word, right?). Maybe because I don’t think that I’m my brain or my body or any other way, just a hunk of meat directed by firing synapses. I might agree that it could family traits or habits picked up from parents but then there are so many examples of children going in completely different directions than their parents that that’s probably not it.
We could blame technology. I mean, in the modern world, who the heck isn’t plugged-in in every conceivable way to some sort of technology? Cripes, I lost my Internet connection for a few hours the other day and thought I might die if I didn’t get it back… I’m just saying. Still, I’m not sure you can really blame your own thought process on a bunch of circuit boards and bandwidth.
Then maybe it’s preference? It could be. At least that infers you have some choice in the matter. That there isn’t some force bigger than yourself directing your behavior or thoughts. Right? Yeah, that sounds better. I prefer to be a scramble-head, rather than being a focused individual. Hmmmm…
Can you fix it?
I think you can – to some degree. You can employ little tricks that keep you on track. Like you can write your list and tape it to your computer keyboard so you can’t possibly miss it the next morning. You could hire a life coach who nags you to stay on track. You could take up Yoga because I hear that makes you all peaceful and centered. You wear blinders and block out your peripheral vision or stop eavesdropping on people while you’re on line at Starbucks. Or you could just go with the flow. Acknowledge that distraction is just a part of your process and that in the end, you get to where you want to go. Because after all, squirrels are really pretty cute, furry little creatures who could inspire you to write a story about a crime busting squirrel, right?
What do you think? Should we force the focus or work with what we’ve got?