How Distractions Kill Your Creativity
Writing is a profession riddled with reasons not to do it.
Here are a horrible handful:
- I’m tired because I worked over 12 hours at my day job today (and every day this week).
- The latest episode of The Masked Singer is on tonight and I want to see who gets unmasked and who stays another week.
- I need to fold my laundry and put it away.
- I haven’t checked Facebook in an hour and there’s something I might have missed.
Add your excuse for not writing to this list.
But I can’t work 24/7.
Who says you should?
I’m talking about wasted time here.
Facebook was a huge time waster for me. I’d pick up my phone 48 times a day. 34 of those were to check Facebook.
Thanks, Screen Time.
Honestly, this app doesn’t care how I spend my time. It just reports what I do. If I choose to see this objective data, I can make significant changes.
Seth Godin says when he reduced his checks of the Internet from 50 to 5 times a day, his productivity tripled.
I believe it.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t have fun, sleep, or catch up with your friends. Of course, you should. What I am saying is you should care enough to do more of what matters and less of what doesn’t.
How that looks is totally up to you.
Distractions are seductive.
I grew up watching TV, all 3 channels of it.
I also spent time outside. I rode my bike, took walks, and shot baskets in the driveway.
One thing that was important to me was writing. Every afternoon I sat at my desk and poured my heart out. It’s like the stream of consciousness pages I write in the morning now. It’s exercise for the brain like riding my bike was exercise for my legs.
Then I became an adult. I got married, took a job, and got a mortgage. Creativity didn’t fit so well into serious adult life. Why write poetry when I can work a few more hours? Time is money, and the electric company doesn’t care whether I write poetry or sell clothes to earn money.
I like light, heat, and working kitchen appliances.
Watching TV became the escape from serious adult responsibility I craved. Later, social media provided a daily vacation from real life.
So did books.
Books were like school after classes were over. They were reminders that creativity takes other forms. Art is doing what others can’t. It’s making your mark. It’s the change you bring to the world that no one else can (or will).
I yearned to make art.
I felt guilty because I wasn’t making art. And I felt guilty because I wanted to.
Guilt comes from everywhere. It can kill you if you let it. It’ll dry up your creativity in the name of responsibility. And it’ll shame you for burying your talent for the sake of respectability.
You can’t make it go away.
So what can you do then?
Stay with me.
What you’re about to read might just change your life forever. I know, because it revolutionized mine.
Embrace the fear that never goes away.
You’ll always be scared of lions if you hide from them.
Let me be clear. I’m not saying you should find a real lion and stick your head in its mouth. What I am saying is a lot of your fears look like a roaring lion when they’re really purring pussycats.
One of my biggest fears was (and sometimes still is) putting out something before it’s good enough.
My lion roars questions like these:
- What if it’s not ready for prime time yet?
- What if it’s not perfect?
- What if you overlook something?
- What if you look like a fool?
- What if ________?
Lion Tamers win because they know lions have a limited ability to focus. That why they stick a chair with four legs in their face. The lion gets confused trying to decide which leg to stare at. While it figures it out, the lion tamer leads the docile lion wherever she wants.
When your fears rise up and kick your butt, raise a four legged chair of your own.
Challenge your fear with these realities:
- Will the world really end if I mess up?
- Will everyone (or anyone) notice if I miss this detail?
- Will this possible embarrassment follow me the rest of my life?
The world won’t end if you screw up.
Your work won’t be perfect because it can’t be.
Failure isn’t fatal if you learn from what doesn’t work.
You don’t have to repeat your mistakes. You do have to experiment. Kids do this without shame. They test boundaries. They push buttons to see what happens. They persist with their parents until they get what they want.
Why can’t you bargain with life like that?
All your childhood habits aren’t irresponsible. Explore. Learn. Try. That’s the only way to grow at any age and in any situation.
What will you do today?
You know what matters.
You can find out what doesn’t.
Time is precious. And you’re free to spend it as you please. Fear will always be there, pushing you forward and holding you back.
Real maturity is knowing the difference.
You have a life mission whether you’ve written it down or not. Do you know what it is? You can find out by doing an exercise my kids did when they started college. Track every hour of every day for a week. Where did you spend your time?
You might get the shock of your life.
Now, take it a step further.
What do you dream about? If you could spend your days doing that, what would that look like?
Write it down.
Now, how does how you spend your time match what you dream about?
If you’re out of alignment, it’s time to take out the trash. What can you quit doing to make time for what you really want? What small step can you take today, tomorrow, and the next day that will make what you dream about your daily reality?
Do that and you’ll write a map to your own slice of paradise.