Lately I haven’t felt particularly creative.
Every time I sit down to write something, it’s like trying to eat soup with a fork. Why even try?
Like any normal, well-adjusted human, I immediately start looking for who or what to blame –– commence the finger pointing.
Is it my sleep schedule? My work-life balance? My dog? (I wish I had a dog!)
It’s perplexing, in large part because I love what I write about.
As the career books would say, I’m passionate about helping people help the world. So, why in the HELL is it so hard sometimes to come up with the right words sometimes?
I want answers!
Spoiler alert: might be my own damn fault. And yours, too.
Monotasking vs. Multitasking: The Ultimate Showdown
At least recently, I think my creative block is distraction –– that persistent pull that my phone, friends, laptop, and dog (one day!) have over my attention.
One minute, coffee in hand, I’m ready to do some work, and the next minute I’m knee deep in Instagram-filtered hell.
I wish I could say that was a rare occurrence. But there’s this weird thing that happens to me sometimes when I sit down to really focus:
I start thinking about all the things I’m not focusing on.
It’s like when you stop petting a dog for a millisecond and then they shove their nose under your hand so you’ll keep going.
My unattended mind is a herd of dogs that need petting and I can’t pet them all, I just can’t!
Enough with the dog metaphors?
I know that monotasking, focusing, being present, whatever you wanna call it, is what I should be doing. Just shut down/put away my other devices, close the door and do the damn thing!
But since we’ve grown up in an age of normalized multitasking, we see monotasking times as a waste… I mean, we could be doing at least twice as many things!
We have to be doing everything all the time always, otherwise we are missing out… aren’t living up to our potential or productivity.
Movie theater owners everywhere can attest –– people don’t like being told they can’t talk and text during the show. How dare you, Cinemark.
Despite my love of productivity (or the appearance of it), I want to stop the fights that occur in my head every time I want to buckle down and focus. The ones that push me to scroll through Twitter while I’m on the phone, or do work while I’m watching Netflix.
Yet, I also recognize that if I am never fully in any moment, and I am always doing something else, then I effectively miss out on everything.
Half-assing two things instead of whole-assing one, as Ron Swanson would say.
So, how the hell do I do focus?
Trying to Be Mindful: a Practice
If you’ve gotten this far, you probably think I’m about to soapbox you about mindfulness, the psychological buzzword of the day.
Pay attention to the moment… be in the present… note how you feel…
I’m not an expert or even a novice on mindfulness, so I’m not gonna sit here and offer you ill-informed advice on how to be more in the present moment. Plenty of much more centered people of the world could tell you how to do that.
I've just tried some strategies.
And I will say, I think they are onto something.
If my toe-dips into Headspace meditations, morning yoga practices, and breathing exercises have taught me anything thus far, it’s that hell, I can feel a bit less stressed and a bit more focused if I slow things down a bit, one at a time.
With consistent practice and persistence, it does work. You can keep all those attention-seeking pups at bay.
It's hard, yes. And every day takes intention. But in making those efforts, I feel a little bit better, and find a little more clarity.
So, what’s the problem, then?
We're All Bad At It
In spite of its becoming a part of the zeitgest, being mindful is still not cool.
Or perhaps better put, it doesn’t mesh well with the way our society is moving.
Opting to do one thing at a time, focus completely, and really immerse yourself goes against the multitasking grain we’ve become obsessed with since technology fit into the palm of our hands.
Even if you do it, it becomes frustrating when you’re the only one paying any fucking attention.
In most friend groups, asking people to stop checking Instagram and put their phones away during dinner or a party is akin to the worst of crotchety librarian finger-wagging.
How dare you shame people’s playthings, their socially anxious safety blankets, their thousand dollar fidget spinners?
Even my family can’t seem to watch a movie together without phones at the ready.
Turning off push notifications feels like willfully hiding under a rock.
It seems like denying progress, or being a nonconformist contrarian and carrying a flip phone just for the hell of it.
WHY DO YOU HATE PROGRESS?
Everyone likes mindfulness in theory, but come practice?
Social pressure gets us.
The Uphill Battle
Now, I’m not old enough to be able to pull out the wistful, reflective sighs about how the good ol’ days before technology were different.
How we all paid attention to each other more, and weren’t so stressed and yadda yadda.
I’ve had a computer in my house since I was 6 and a phone in my hand from 13 onward. Not a lot of legs to stand on.
However, I know that the way I (we?) are living now doesn’t feel sustainable.
So frequently my brain feels overloaded by crap information wrapped in clickbait headlines and teaser images. A lot of the time I don’t feel smarter and more well-read –– I feel overwhelmed.
The more days I wake up, roll over, and immediately check my phone, the more I question how much I cleave to the distraction-makers of my life, namely my phone and laptop.
I would like to cut out more clutter that makes me feel busy without being productive. My headspace, and yes, even my creativity, could use a changeup.
I’d also like to do so without ostracizing myself from the wider world of tech-savvy friends and loved ones. I’d like to look people in the eye without them thinking I’m a witch, and talk to people on the phone once in awhile.
I want to be able to do one thing without feeling guilty I’m not doing the other thing. I'd like to make "being" rather than "checking" the norm.
Wonder if other people feel the same.
Let's change the world.
Who wrote this?
Gina Edwards, Impact Explorer founder and lover of all pun jokes, making a positive change in the world, Stephen Colbert, Jif Peanut Butter, and staying inside on rainy days. Order may vary.