Growing up as a creative kid with very hands-on, project oriented, DIY parents, I’ve had many moments of looking at things in shops, or in magazines, or catalogues, or noticing an accessory or fetching outfit on someone passing me by, and thought:
I could make that.
And sure, a lot of the time I didn’t make it, but then sometimes I did, or at least my own variation. Over time, it became tied in with my own sense of frugality. Why would I buy something if I could make it? And that, incidentally, worked for me for a long while because my path through art school and into adulthood welcomed frugality. I nurtured this Make Everything quality and it’s been pretty fun. Of course, it’s not just fired by my, ahem, tight purse strings, but also by joy in creative exploration. It’s addictive. And it’s a bit of a problem for someone like me,
as I’ve come to realize, with my energies sprawling out like tentacles into the far reaches of only God knows where. There’s no end. There are too many wondrous things to get my fidigity artist paws on and I want to explore them all.
Right, I can’t do it all at once, but I can jump from one creative discipline to the next as though leaping from lily pads. And that pretty much sums up my life. Even as a teenager my mom would caution me saying that she noticed I seemed to work in six week cycles. I would get super passionate about something, dive in head first and work feverishly. Before long, that fever would break into a comparatively lackluster interest, and I would move onto the next thing. That was the first time I associated my inherent creative personality with something that was wrong with me. It became my fatal flaw. I’ve carried that with me. I’ve been a person who lacks – damn this word to hell – FOCUS. It’s been so elusive to me. I’ve put FOCUS on a pedestal and charged it with so much meaning – that if only I could focus, I could be prosperous and happy and wildly successful.
Self sabotage. I excel in this area. Reflecting on it, I think it’s mostly linked to my lack of self worth. I know, every time I say I lack self worth, it sounds so ridiculous to me because I have the ability to look at myself logically and come to a fairly conservative conclusion that I am pretty great (and I hope you see that about yourself, too). But my emotional self will have none of it. And I’m not blaming anyone here. My mom was doing what all great moms do, she was expressing concern. No one can control how we will internalize their words. Only we are responsible for that. And God help me, I cling to that thought now, as a parent. I’m even considering starting a therapy fund for my children to present to them when I send each of them off into adulthood. I digress. What I’m really trying to say is that by putting FOCUS up on that pedestal, as I let it be defined to me by society in general, I’ve set myself up to fail.
So, why is focus so elusive? Creativity feels like an intermingling of the soul and the conscious thinking mind and, as thus, there seems to be an eternal struggle between the emotional and the logical. We know focus is good, but the soul does not want to settle for just any old focus. The creative soul wants to find its one true love, at least that’s what it feels like to me. And time – another thorn in my side – is a nagging bitch. It’s hard to focus when you have that hovering feeling that while you are focusing you may be missing out on something else great, maybe better, and you wouldn’t want to miss out on meeting your one true love. Soon you’ll be old and a spinster and well past your prime. In a world with so many creative avenues, sometimes these tensions run high.
I can, and do, focus, regularly. I am productive and skilled. I do what I do and if I’m not already pretty good at it, I’m improving all the time. I’m not afraid of a good challenge and I kick ass at creative problem solving. Where the lines blur for me is that there are many forks in the road and they are all awesome. Often I find myself on more than one path at a time, and that, in essence, means I lack razor sharp, pinpointed focus, and therefore, as society would tell me, all things “success” related (imagine me air quoting right now) shall elude me. But gah! That sounds SO BORING.
So, here’s where I’m at. A while back, I watched this rather liberating TED Talk about Multipotentialism. Finally, a label that I can package myself up with and present to the world. Apparently, this newly coined term, multipotentialite, encompasses the very essence of my being that I felt was a personal flaw. She flipped it around on me. First of all, I’m not the only one. And secondly, it turns out I’m pretty valuable because of it. Meh, who knew? So, I’ve been thinking about this, and the need to still focus, in concert with my multipotentiality, if I’m going to actually consistently put food on my table, and wondering what kind of business model I could create for myself that would encompass a certain freedom to jump between what I now know to be my true and loyal loves – drawing, writing, sewing, and graphic design. I’m working on this, and it feels right. I’m one of those “extroverted introverts.” – I love being with people so much, but it can be exhausting (mostly because I’m a YES woman – yikes, another hitch in my git’along) and I also love my alone time. I actually adore being out in the world alone. For me, it’s that balance between the joy of people watching and the energy I get from being by myself. I do find it easier to see clearly, to have a better sense of focus, when I pay attention to whether or not I need to steal away to be by myself for awhile, and learning how to say no to things that prevent me from doing that.
So, I encourage you, if you are beating yourself up over your inability to focus, start with praising yourself for what you are already good at. Revisit those things. How many of them have had staying power with you throughout your life – that no matter how far away from them you veered, you always came back? Those are your loyal and true loves. Start finding your focus there. I’m just realizing this myself, and I have to say, it’s not boring in the slightest.
Bonne chance, my friends.