How to Hone Your Creative Focus

Cindy Tillory Avatar

Have you ever started a long-term project and then abandoned it a few months in? You had the motivation, the drive, or the gumption to start that project but that new idea is just too new and shiny to ever resist. Or how about this: you have a fleshed-out idea, but you can’t complete it because you lost interest altogether. Do you sometimes wonder why you can’t finish much of anything? You beat yourself up about it and then don’t start any projects because you’re worried you’ll never complete anything. You then hit a mental and emotional wall: writer’s block or a creative slump. You want to do great things. You have high expectations of your work, and of yourself, but does that motivate you?

Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko

Define Yourself

In America, you are what you do. it’s a story we tell ourselves about who we are. It’s a story that we tell ourselves about ourselves and others; it’s our mini elevator pitch we recite to ourselves when we think about what we do. But what if you create things in a world where anyone regardless of skill can make something? How do you define yourself in what you do?

One of the things I love about the TV show Avatar: Last Airbender was its focus on one’s identity through the lens of internal motivation. When the Mentor figure Uncle Iroh calls out to Zuko and tells him he needs to think inwards to his own desires instead of relying on others’ wants over his own. Zuko’s journey may be about Honor, but it’s no different than our own drive to create. And much like Zuko, we must look inward toward our own motivation.

What do you want? What was the desired outcome of this project? Why did you want to give this project your time, effort, and attention?

Photo by Polina Tankilevitch

Know What You’re Doing

When I set up this blog I had zero ideas on how to run it. Now I’m getting more invested in it and have a game plan for how it will get me to a specific overall goal. I’m not saying you have to have a five-year plan, but a guide is great.

My guide goes a little like this:

  1. improve my content writing skills
  2. make what I do sustainable and consistent
  3. make people more aware of my work
  4. build an audience, for what I do
  5. branch out to other forms of media

Notice how isn’t specific, but not detailed? Think of the plan as like chakras; they all are managing different parts of the whole, but they work in tandem with each other for a higher purpose.

What is your desired outcome? Does it align with your current actions?

Photo by Ivan Bertolazzi

Change the Formula, Not the Product

What I’ve learned in my years of creating things is that any constant activity will eventually feel like you’re in a hell of your own making. When you create you’ve got to avoid this mental sandtrap.

In high school, my AP Art teacher had us do a year-long project called a concentration. An Artistic concentration is like your overarching theme for what you are working on. It usually is several art pieces in various mediums that have the same artistic direction. For example, a concentration could be about emotions or memories, or stories. something specific enough to give a picture yet vague enough to add nuance to the idea. In a concentration, you are able to express yourself through the conveying of that idea in a nuanced way. This is a good way of looking at the work you are doing on the project you are doing. It’s your art, so how do you want to express yourself? I like to change up my surroundings before I get into my writing mode, other times I do a change in routine to mix it up. Other times I just free-write whatever comes to mind for 10 minutes. or try to write a few paragraphs in the style of one of my favorite authors. For me, little stuff like that keeps it all from getting stale.

What are some ways you can inject some nuance into what you do? How can you look at this subject with more curiosity? What do you need from others to make this work?

So Let’s Summarize:

  • Our motivations for why we began this work can lead us to a deeper understanding of our focus.
  • Have a rough idea about what you want to accomplish with your efforts.
  • Find new ways to keep you from getting bored when repetition is upon you.

Hope you enjoyed this one, I may do longer articles if it performs well.

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