March 11, 2011

Taking a Moment to Be In the Moment

I've noticed lately that because I have so many awesome creative ideas floating around in my head, I sometimes have trouble concentrating on the project in front of me. Do you ever have that problem? There's so much going on in your life -- or in the room -- that it's hard to focus? E-mails coming in, other people hanging around, and new concepts popping into your mind.

Of course, the problem of being productive in the face of distraction has been handled by far more eloquent writers than yours truly -- others more versed in helping readers learn to simplify and focus. For example, I highly recommend Leo Babauta's work on these subjects. (Check out his thoughts on Focus, and of course his Little But Really Useful Guide to Creativity -- then work the archives. My thoughts on food don't always jibe with Leo's, but generally Zen Habits is a gold mine of ideas about productivity, habit building, and living a simple and meaningful life.)

Because distraction and focus are so often at odds in a creative person's life, I'm sure this subject will crop up again and again. But here's a little exercise you should try today:
As you settle in to create something based on the daily theme or to dive into some other creative work, gather together your supplies, inspiration, cup of tea, whatever you need, and then pause. Close your eyes. Listen to the sounds around you, feel the work surface under your hands, see what you can smell, taste, what kind of light is playing over your eyelids. Let any tension go out of your body, and just breathe. Become totally present in the moment. Your blog can wait. The dishes can wait. What matters is the work in front of you.

Now open your eyes and tackle that work! As you become aware of distractions, acknowledge them and let them slip away. What's a TV in the next room compared to the typewriter or sketch pad in front of you?
It may seem easy or obvious, but we often don't take the time to truly clear our minds. The beauty of focusing on being present is that you can do it anywhere, anytime (and the more you practice, the more peaceful you'll become, whether it's related to your creative work or not). If you can always create in a quiet, organized space -- or whatever works best for you -- that's fantastic, but it's not an option for everyone. Taking a second to clear your mind and purposefully focus on the task at hand is key if you're working in a less than optimal environment.

So I dare you to give the above exercise a try. Maybe you'll notice an increased flow in your work, at least for a while. Or maybe you'll notice a weird smell in the room that you didn't realize was there, and it will plague you as you try to write or sew. Let us know in the comments!


  1. With a live in Greyhound, you never know what kind of smells you're going to get... ;)

    I need to start doing this at work before I start on a project. Too often I find myself overwhelmed with emails, IMs, other jobs staring at me, etc.

  2. I find that if I do this at work, I actually get more done because I can concentrate for a little bit longer. With my creative work sometimes it helps, but sometimes I kind of thrive on the multi-tasking too.