It’s so hard to find focus these days. Just the simple task of pausing or taking a moment to just stop and think has in many instances become a challenge. Certainly influenced by our digital surroundings, the struggle for clarity of thought has become a daily struggle. Personally, I have found the harder I focus on something, say a deadline at work or quick job that needs completing, the more difficult it becomes to actually obtain that higher level of attention.
As I write this now before heading to my 9-5 job, I am worn out with the lack of focus I know my day will entail. Noisy, crowded cubicle sections shred my creativity from the moment it is briefed to me. We are expected to perform oftentimes in a bubble or vacuum, distant from the content we are actually trying to creative. A lack of context hinders our potential and diminishes our focus. In school I was taught how to think differently focusing on creativity and communication. In the real world I have experienced how mainstream thoughts skews these university-guarded definitions. Designs are tweaked things to make a quicker dollar or achieve momentary gratification in an executive meeting. Design was never meant to operate under these perimeters. Eventually, under the stress of this type of atmosphere, even a creative team with passion and talent will run out of gas.
In college I used to work in a very nomadic way, from the library to the park, my home studio or in a classroom. My favorite of these is a coffee shop. I am not, however discrediting the office or studio where often the space and resources are needed. These areas are still crucial to the success and execution of ideas. What I did learn from the coffee shop workspace though was something more intangible. Surrounded by people I am not affiliated I can distance myself and isolate my thoughts. In an arena filled with distractions none are specific enough to warrant my full attention. Even more, personally this adds (in a positive way) to the creative tension I am often struggling to find a solution for. While a junior in high school, I would slip away from my house in a jaunt of mid-week freedom to meet up with friends at a local coffee shop to do homework…and yes we would actually get work done. These sessions would often lead to collaborative help and informal solutions to each persons different needs.
But I am not writing about the coffee shop. This just serves as one example of non-conformity within a creative pursuit (personally speaking). For me it is also the REI camp chair I am hunched over in now, sipping a black coffee I brewed at home. Somehow this strikes me as one of the most free moments (in a creative sense) I may have all day. Certainly for accountability’s sake, an office is key and perhaps this the reason they are so developed today. But when enacting focus during the past 4 years I’ve spent immersed in a creative center within a large corporation, I’ve learned true exploration of creativity often comes far beyond those walls. Augmented creative brainstorm sessions through Pinterest and Instagram have conjured a false sense of inspiration. Make no mistake, I use these resources daily and find value in them. I am not disagreeing with the merit of these platforms, they help kickstart creativity and guide initial concepts.
Inspiration requires immersion and a journey towards creative solutions. Through this external influence, be it a trip, certain music, or an atmosphere like a coffee shop, ideas are developed and adapted to connect the problem at hand with a creative solution. Creative, being the key. Creativity is one of the greatest areas our human mind explores. When we become distracted or lose our attention in a creative environment, we sell ourselves short. Creative complacency is a silent killer and for me, I have felt the repercussions of this downfall. A choice is almost always available and at the end of the day, as I have learned, it is your opportunity to change this. Staying creative in a difficult environment can sometimes trigger some of the most innovative and revolutionary ideas. This pursuit though, requires endless amounts of hard work. Humanity has never required something so great of something so simple, focus. Focus is a key element towards unlocking endless creative potential and without this we risk losing our livelihoods, careers, and ultimately our sanity.
Now, if only finding the time to focus was as easy as it sounds.
Also published on Medium.