UNFOCUSED: A Condition of The Artist Or Something More?

6:44 AM

Continued from this post. Scroll down to see the poll (now closed) and results.


Wow! You guys blow me away! Thank YOU for the great response to the poll and for sharing your thoughts in the comments. By far and away, it seems many of us are struggling with FOCUS.

I must admit, I'm surprised! When I look around at so much beautiful work, it doesn't seem like there's a FOCUS problem.

What is odd to me, is that when I found myself thinking about FOCUS, I realized I had always considered a lack of focus to be a condition of being an artist. After all, we're also blessed with an abundance of curiosity and that's just the way of things, right?

Maybe, maybe not.

Turns out that's the short view. There's any number of reasons for a lack of FOCUS.

There is no doubt that if we could ask everyone who voted for focus what their definition, their vision of FOCUS in their lives looked like, we'd get a lot of different answers.

But it seems to me to make sense to have a clear idea of what FOCUS would look like in our individual lives if we could snap our fingers and have it RIGHT NOW. So before we go any further, let's define FOCUS for ourselves. What does being focused look like for the VERY BEST YOU in your life RIGHT NOW?

Remember, this is not about what FOCUS will look like when all the laundry is done, the kids are all on their own being successful, the parents are healthy and happy, our health is great and we're rich as can be. This is about the Very Best You, Right Now, Today:

For me, right now, it would be to have a clear step-by-step plan of what to do first, what to do second, what to do third, kinda like building a piece of furniture. If you skip the fifth step, the blasted thing will wobble. I find myself wasting energy worrying about that potential missed step. 

So Many Ways To Be UNFOCUS
As I mulled over FOCUS this week, I started looking for causes for being out of focus or lacking focus. I found myself looking at being UNFOCUSED for some of the reasons and here's what I came up with (in no particular order):

  • High Expectations. Also known as Trying To Do It ALL. Most of us are coping with jobs, kids, parents, health issues—our own and/or others, exercising, money worries, keeping a house and home operational, food on the table or at least in the pantry and clean clothes on our backs. And we want to be artists, too. In fact, we want to be brilliant artists! Expect much?! How do we even begin to decide what to focus on and is there any energy left at the end of the day to pursue a creative endeavor?
  • Bad Habits. Perhaps we have never learned to focus our attention and so we're distracted by every bright and shiny thing that comes our way. (As a side note, there may also be a medical reason for this. Many adults suffer from some version of adult attention deficit. If you suspect this, please seek medical advice.)
  • Diversionary. By not being focused, we don't have to worry about failure. Or success. Or dealing with feelings of inadequacy. Also, be careful of perfectionism with this one…it's insidious and will creep into places we never expect. Remember, perfectionism is all about using fear to keep us from trying. Our lack of focus may not even be related to our art. It may be something else in our lives that we're avoiding and the bleed-over effects our art.
  • Exhaustion. Hmmm, I wonder why. If you wonder why, see "High Expectations" above. Exhaustion from high expectations and trying to do it all and be all things to all people is a focus-killer if ever there was one! This may also be related to "Not Saying 'No" below.
  • Overwhelm. This is one of my personal favorites. I stand in one spot and turn round and round and round, getting nothing accomplished because I have no idea what to do first because there is soooo much to do! Ever happen to you? This is usually related to "Being Unable To Make A Decision" below.
  • Not Saying "No." Every. Single. Time. We say "yes" to something, we are saying "no" to something else. Sometimes it's an unexpected opportunity (like a trip out of town with friends to a quaint little place the same weekend we were going to paint because our spouse was out of town and the kids were going to their grandparents). That's temporary and a conscious choice. What happens when we're saying yes to everything, all the time, with no filters? Even though we know it means we won't have time for what's important to us? Something has to give and it's usually our focus.
  • Unable To Make A Decision. It decision time on what project to start or where to start on the project and we freeze. We're hesitant, unsure if it's the right decision. What if there's a better way or this isn't the right place to start? We're in a constant agony trying to decide where to go, what to do, how to do it, etc.
  • Isolation. Many of us crave alone time. But too much of a good thing is still too much. By the very virtue of being an artist, much of our time is spent in our heads. Alone. That isolation can be solace or it can lead to a spiral that is nearly impossible to break. We lose focus and cannot seem to regain it. Another form of isolation is being around folks who have no grasp as to why it's important to us to paint, dream, dance, create, draw, stare into space or otherwise indulge in something they don't understand.
  • Permission. This is a big one for a lot of women I know. Women struggle with taking time for themselves, to focus on their own interests. Society frowns upon this selfishness. And a lot of women are not able to grant themselves permission to take the time and resources they need to pursue their dreams.
  • But I Don't Know What I Want To Be When I Grow Up. When you are seeking to find your niche, it's hard to stay focused. This calls to mind the words of David Allen, author of Getting Things Done, "You can do anything, but you can't do everything." How can we be focused if we don't know what we want to focus on? A conundrum for sure!
  • Pain. Pain takes many forms and whether it is physical, mental or a combination, it's darn hard to move past it to focus on anything else. Illness is often temporary, but what if it's not? What hope do we have of focusing on creating when we're challenged by a chronic illness or limitation?

Whew! That's a lot and I'm sure the list is incomplete.

Getting A Handle On Our FOCUS Challenges
Do any of these resonate with you? Do you have another or different reason that's keeping you unfocused or at least contributing to the challenge of getting focused? Please share it in the comments below.

Knowing or at least having some idea as to the root cause gives us a compass reading on where we are.

In the next post (it will be published on Monday, January 20th), we'll discuss more about where we want to go and how we're going to get more FOCUS in our lives.

If you know someone who would benefit from this series on FOCUS, I would greatly appreciate it if you would share this series with them!

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9 Creative Thought(s)

  1. Wonderful thoughts, Laure -- insightful and wise ... blessings for sharing your thoughts and provoking my own .. much to chew on .....

  2. Great, thought provoking post! For me, my lack of focus probably stems from High Expectations, and being Unable To Make a Decision. I know I want to do too many things, have way more ideas than time in a day, week, or year to accomplish them all. So choosing one or two, something manageable anyway, is difficult when other inspiring ideas sit on the back burner. This is, however, one of the reasons I choose to work small, for now, so that I can get from one idea to the next more quickly.

  3. Dear Laure - I didn't choose focus but it was second on my list. Reading over your thoughts I think I should have chosen focus. Perhaps that is the crux of all the other reasons such as not enough expertise, inspiration, etc. Looking forward to more on this subject. Thanks for getting me to focus - :)!

  4. I did choose FOCUS and am so glad that you are addressing that issue in this inspiring post. I have the time, I have the space, I have the supplies - I just need to get the brush moving across the paper. I remember the concept of brainstorming and making a flow chart from a wonderful book "Wishcraft" by Barbara Sher - in essence, mapping the way from where you are today to where you want to be. Start at the end point and move backward each step in the mapping process until you get back to where you are now - then you have a map to move forward and you know what steps you need to take this day or this week toward that goal. Sher says you start with simple creative goals like "Make 5 silly drawings of the cat" or "Write one bad page" - tiny steps that will point you in the right direction. I look forward to reading your next post - and I enjoyed your visit to Bok Gardens - it's on my list for this year. Another great thing to do in Florida is to go to Epcot or Disney Animal Kingdom and pretend that you are in another country - I got some great photos to use as ideas for paintings.

  5. First of all, the little tiny print description under the pic is my definition of Direction not focus which is why I chose Direction but the two are so closely related as all your bullets show and some of those bullets definitely fit me such as the attention deficit one (can't help but be distracted on my way to get something out of the drier or the freezer or I even stop to weed on my way out to the mailbox and I forget the mail kind of thing) but also the Overwhelm bullet affects me but the big one which is why I picked Direction, is the I Don't Know What I Want To Be When I Grow Up bullet. Yep, I can't seem to sit down and do anything at all because I don't know where I want to go right now. I keep thinking I'd like to spread out from my journal into wall art but I don't want to have canvasses or pictures all lying around not able to be hung for lack of space (if I don't waste the canvasses with failures - yep, the critic comes out big time when trying to move forward too) so I sit and wait for another day to start hoping against silly hope, that that direction will just pop into my head and I will then be able to focus on all the steps to get there.

    Boy, I rambled on here. Hope some of it makes sense. All your bullets made sense, some definitely fit all the time and some fit some of the time but you are right on for sure.

  6. I put that book mentioned by Chris, Wishcraft, on my wish list at Amazon. I've spent way too much money this month to buy it but next month will be here soon. It sounds great for my choice of Direction!

  7. What a great post! I admit I have most of the issues you listed, so it's no wonder I have a lack of focus. (I wasn't even focused enough to answer your poll question...) I want to spend some time mulling over your points.

    Someone mentioned Wishcraft by Barbara Sher--another book of hers I've found helpful in coping with overwhelm and the desire to do everything all at once is I Could Do Anything if I Only Knew What It Was.

    1. I'll look that one up too Kathy. I need all the help I can get, lol.

  8. F.O.C.U.S ... hmmm.... I can relate to most of the reasons that you suggested could be the cause of a lack of focus. Certainly I'd have to start with the first one on your list - trying to do it all. I feel like a circus act with poles and dishes where the person tries to keep multiple stacks of dishes spinning while they are each on top of a pole/stick. It is exhausting trying to keep everything in motion. I think I have bad habits in not having some sort of 'routine' where I do have a time marked for art, and different times marked for other things. But, I also relate to Diversionary 'By not being focused, we don't have to worry about failure. Or success. Or dealing with feelings of inadequacy.'. Yep, that seems like it fits too. As do several others. I feel that I need (I crave) "space" of time and physical space to just think and plan and decide how to put all the puzzle pieces together. Can't wait to hear your suggestions! ;-)


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