Creativity Self-development

What Destroys Creativity and How to Fix it

I recently watched Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s TED Talk on how craving attention is detrimental to creativity while focussing attention is fundamental to it. Oof—it spoke to me. So much so that it inspired my intention for this month: focussed attention.

Creating is such a process of curiosity and opening, of sitting with your observations and emotions, of expression through patience, play and maybe pain. When we close ourselves off with ulterior motives of what we might gain as a result of the final product, we short-change ourselves of the enriching experience that is the creative process itself. We lose the full engrossment and presence that that process affords.

Last month, I painted from a place of play rather than perfectionism. Doing so led to a piece I really love. What’s more, it led me to fully enjoy and be absorbed in the process. Dis-attaching from surface-level hopes of creating something “worth sharing” allowed me to tap more deeply into my creativity. It was fun, explorative, pure, open… It allowed me to express, practice, try, not try, fuck up, play… It also gave me the medicine of focusing my attention on one thing and one thing alone—namely, a thing that didn’t drain me and indeed gave back everything I put into it tenfold.  

Screens, scrolling, watching, consuming, numbing… sometimes I plunge into these traps practically from the moment I wake up. These habits have eroded my attention span. Fortunately, the damage is reversible. It takes practice and discipline to unplug from a world full of so much stimulus… to set the boundaries needed to ensure consumption doesn’t compromise quality of life… to really, fully live rather than pass numbly from day to day.

Yet, for all it takes, it gives back so much more.

Prompts for reflection

Taking stock of where your attention has drifted, consider where you might reset it to better serve you. Delve a little deeper by incorporating the prompts below into your next journal, meditation or reflection exercise to check in with whether your outward actions align with who you are at your core and what you hope to achieve or contribute in this life.