The enemy of creativity in 2014 is distraction. Growing up in the 80’s, I didn’t have the Internet or cable television. There weren’t 500 channels to distract me. No one was addicted to Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest. As a kid, I passed the time by creating. I colored pictures, wrote short stories, and invented elaborate games in my bedroom or backyard.
These days, I waste huge chunks of time doing nothing. Television reruns, scrolling through my Twitter timeline, Facebook stalking … er, research. Hours disappear. And when I do sit down to create, I’m so easily distracted by beeps and vibrations. It’s a problem. But I have discovered a few tricks to stay creative and productive in the midst of the technological invasion.
1) Find your happy place.
This is different for everyone, but there are places on this planet that your productivity will go up, and there are places your productivity will crash and burn. Some people work best at home. Others need to escape. Some will work better in isolation. I tend to work better in public places (coffee shops, for example). People energize me. I’m more distracted when I’m alone because the silence is deafening. Maybe it’s your office; maybe it’s not. Wherever that place is, find it, urinate on the chair to mark your territory, and get to creating.
2) Find your ideal hours of creative productivity.
I’m not a morning person. I spent decades apologizing for that until I finally accepted who I was. Some people wake up at five o’clock in the morning to write. I could never do that. I like sleep. And I don’t like going to bed when the sun is out. I tend to have two productive periods throughout the day. One is late morning/early afternoon (10:00 AM – 2:00 PM) and the other is at night (10:00 PM – midnight). If I try to write outside of those windows, it’s normally mush. It’s 11:23 AM as I type these words, and it’s going pretty well so far, right?
So—and you really have to commit to this or it will never happen—find at least two hours per day (if you can spare more time, then do it. I suggest two hours instead of one because it normally takes me some time to get into a creative rhythm. If you only have one dedicated hour set aside, you’ll run out of time right as you hit a creative breakthrough), and use that time to create. Not work. Create. Write, paint, sculpt, sing, dance, whatever. Just tap into your creative energy and see what happens.
3) Travel back in time to 1985.
I have no idea why I picked 1985. Maybe it’s because I was 8 years old at the time, and that felt like my creative peak. I didn’t have a cell phone in 1985. I don’t think we had cable television. I’m almost positive Orange is the New Black wasn’t streaming on Netflix. The Internet was just a gleam in Al Gore’s eye. Look, I know the media has convinced us life is impossible without our technological gadgets, but they’re lying to you. We all survived many years without Twitter. You can unplug for two hours per day. You can. Don’t say you can’t. You’re inflating your own value. Some day you’ll die, and the world will keep spinning. So why not contribute something unique and meaningful while you’re still breathing so that Earth spins just a bit slower in your absence.
4) Fail spectacularly.
I get it. I know we’re all delicate flowers whose entire self-worth hinges on how many people like our most recent Facebook status. But seriously people. Get over it. Who cares if no one likes the thing you created? You didn’t create it for them. I spent way too many years paralyzed by fear of failure. Of course I’ve produced some creative turds over the years. Everyone has. It doesn’t mean you’re a talentless hack. Keep going. Keep honing your craft. Keep creating. And if you’re going to fail, fail spectacularly.
5) Play in a sandbox with friends.
I’ve learned this lesson one million times, but I keep forgetting it. Creating can happen alone, but it’s more fun with friends. And I don’t mean that you have to all sit in a room and paint together or work on the same project all of the time (although that’s certainly wonderful too), but simply having a group of friends to encourage you is a game-changer. And it doesn’t have to be overt. All I usually have to do is hang out with friends like Bradley or Joseph for an hour and that’s enough to recharge my battery. When friends do cool stuff, it motivates me to do cool stuff. Hey, that looks fun; I wanna play too!
The ironic part is that my list doesn’t accurately describe my current circumstances. But it should, so I’m going to do something about it. For the next month (July 9 – August 8), I’m going to make all five a priority. At least two hours per day in my happy place back in 1985, failing spectacularly in a sandbox full of my friends. Who’s in?
Photo (Flickr CC) by North Charleston