The battle of the distracted mind

The battle of the distracted mind.jpg
I feel thin, sort of stretched,
like butter scraped over too much bread.
— Bilbo Baggins

Bilbo loved the Ring, but it ruled him. It guided his choices, it bound him to it. He was addicted to it. Would never leave it behind. 

Much like our phones. 
It’s always in our pocket or our hand, we guard it, look at it for hours and search restlessly for it if we misplace it. We go to bed with it next to us, wake up beside it. It’s there, in every empty space of our day. 

Do you recognize the feeling of being stretched? 

Like your mind isn’t quite able to keep up, fit it all inside? Stressed and anxious? Your head a clutter at the end of the day? 

As creatives, our phone can be a fantastic device of inspiration, sharing our work, connecting and catching ideas on the go. But it can also be something that keeps us from our creativity. 

Our minds are designed to react to the new, to learn and to keep searching. Brains love scrolling. With the whole world in our pocket, the possibilities are endless. But our focus is not. We don’t really keep up with ourselves. We have to rationalize. 

Our shiny-loving minds say: get as much different in as possible. 

Not a very good principle.
Article too long? NEXT. The beginning a little slow? NEXT. Did I have to think to understand? NEXT.

We end up jumping, skipping, skimming and scanning.

Our focus is lost in the attempt to have it all.

Now, since the internet it full of poop, scanning is a quite useful ability. The problem arise when we start treating our lives and creativity the same way. 

Go for a run? Naah, better to check Twitter for the gazillionth time. 
Write on my book? Juuust after these cute cat videos. 

Thanks brain. You are actively destroying my dreams, one scroll at a time. 

You probably know the feeling if you've tried to start working on a creative project. Ugh, in a moment. Just a few more minutes. And so the day passes. We get tired. We’ll do it tomorrow. Next week. When the new year starts. 

… never?

Our own minds are capable of crushing even the strongest of dreams if we let it.

Self-doubt and fear of course makes it even harder. They love the scrolling too. They don't want us to create, inaction is perfect. I've been there, many many times. 

But we can take control.
Bilbo managed to leave the ring behind. (Well, after some encouragement from Gandalf.) And when he finally did, he felt free. 

In the end, it comes down to a choice. I’m not saying you should ditch your phone. The phone is not the real problem, it’s that our mind prioritizes all of the shiny before creating. And there’s a lot of shiny in our world, especially in that phone of yours. 

You need to take control over your haphazard, shine-loving and distracted mind.
It’s not impossible. Hard. But not impossible. 
It takes choice, routines, structure. 

Routines may not be the sexiest idea, but they work. They are one of the things our minds like, maybe even more than shiny. It knows what it's supposed to do, so it does it. Let's use that against it.

Me, I hate to actively write in my calendar exact times for when to do creative stuff. So I don’t write it down. It’s okay, a calendar isn’t the only way. What’s more important is how you structure your everyday life. 

I’ve started to get up early to write. Horrible, since I’m a dedicated night owl, but I’ve made the choice. If I wait until the evening to write, my mind will be cluttered and tired from a whole day of that scattered focus. To bring a mind like that to a creative place is hard. Sometimes it’ll work, but not every day. And I’ll feel guilty every time it don’t. It’s not a very pleasant way to live.

We can structure a creative life

I'm not a fan of writing Creativity in the calendar. It makes it feel like a chore. And the thing is, if we're in a procrastinating funk, writing it in a calendar is not very effective. We usually find a way to accidentally miss that time. 

What works better for me is to make it a part of my daily life structure. You know, brushing the teeth, taking out the trash, emptying the cat litter box. Things we'd gladly procrastinate, but we do them anyway because we have a routine around it. 

My structure is that I get up early before work to write. I prefer writing in the evening, but I know my mind may not be fit for creativity. All of that scattered focus clutters it and makes it impossible to be creative. So I choose the pragmatic way and get up at 6.00 every morning. 

Even as a dedicated night owl, it works. I didn't think it would, but it really does. Starting with the important work, what I love, my why - I wake up inspired, even if it’s pitch dark outside and the clock shows an indecent time. I go to work with a feeling that I’ve already won the day. I had energy to create. I chose my passion, before everything else. 

For me, it's a great way to give creativity space in my life, but maybe it's not your style. That's okay. The important is this: find a space in your every day to create and stick to it. Make it as natural as brushing your teeth. I promise you, distractions and procrastination will be so so much easier to get past when you have structure.

Don’t spread yourself too thin. Make room for creativity in your life. If you choose mornings, you get too choose your breakfast, before the world takes over and starts throwing bread at you. Afterwards you can keep scrolling and surfing on the waves of millions of other minds, with the satisfaction of knowing that your own mind did something great today. It focused on what’s important. What you love.