What REALLY Stops You Getting Focused And Just Creating What Matters?

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Most of us I’m sure would be able to come up with a whole list of reasons why we don’t create more.

Not enough time, fear of failing, crippled by procrastination, taunted mercilessly by our inner critic about not being good enough to even start, unable to create anything unless it’s utterly perfect..

We all know the usual suspects…

So I wanted to ask this question out loud to be more specific, and get some input from everyone on not what stops you creating in general, but what stops you getting focused on a single project or idea?

If you had to put it down to just one thing, what is it that keeps you from picking a new creative project, then creating happily to a point where you can proudly say it’s finished and let it go?

Leave your thoughts below in the comments, and let’s see what common themes develop…
How To Get Focused And Create What Matters

If getting focused is something you struggle with in your creative life, you might like to check out my ebook – How To Get Focused And Create What MattersA Practical Guide for Choosing Your Best Ideas and Bringing Them To Completion.

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Thanks for reading. : )

26 thoughts on “What REALLY Stops You Getting Focused And Just Creating What Matters?”

  1. I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that I don’t create as much as I like because like a lot of folks there are just so many other things that take priority like children, husbands, domestics, work etc etc (insert long list of choice)Its fine if there’s ‘just’ you but few of us live in isolation and others needs have to come first a lot of the time.

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  2. That’s always a very fair point Julie, creating can’t always be the highest priority, and we all have a number of commitments in our lives.

    What about when you do set time aside to create though?

    Do you easily pick a single project and stick with it? If not, what stops you getting focused and down to creating?

    Thanks for your input. πŸ™‚

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  3. All of the above, of course, but also — Guilt at all the projects I have not finished. Why start another one to add to the list of incompletes and failures?

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    1. Hi Bonnie, thanks for your input.

      What would make a project a “success” in your eyes?

      What do/can you learn from projects as you’re creating them, regardless of whether you finish them or not, to take that pressure off a little and reduce the guilt you feel?

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  4. when I do create? I get interrupted! Phone, cat, child, doorbell, you name it…

    but I’ve gone away and thought about this and I think I allow these interruptions to happen as I probably see my creating as a frivolous hobby and therefore let other things interrupt it or take precedence . In fact I can also feel guilty that I’m ‘indulging’ in being creative – its not like a ‘real job’ is it?

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    1. I think that’s very open of you to admit to the possibility that you’re allowing these interruptions Julie. You “probably” see you creating as a frivolous hobby?

      I believe it can be a bit chicken and egg with creating – we need to create more, so we get back into the flow, and get focused again, then we remember how good it feels, and how fundamentally important being creative is to our happiness and well being. Then we create more, because we want more of the positive energy and feelings.

      But it doesn’t just magically appear. There comes a point where that first step has to be made – laying the egg as it were – so we commit regular time to creating without interruption (even for just 15 mins a day – how long does it take to lay an egg? πŸ˜‰ ).

      Then we start to fall in love with creating again, and the person we are when focused and creative, and it all becomes so much easier and worthwhile…

      I hope all that makes sense.

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  5. Lots of things get in the way. To many projects mean I have trouble focusing on just one long enough to see it through to completion. I get distracted and taken off on another tangent. I’m currently trrying to apply the concept of simplifying to my creativity: make notes (God bless Evernote!) about all of the creative inspirations as they hit, but try to focus on developing just one or two at a time. The others are always there to come back to.

    Beyond that, it’s the usual. Kids, life, etc. It all comes down to not putting myself high enough on my own list to make the time I need, or to use the time that I have well enough for fulfilment (creativity instead of dreaded housework, etc.) So the deeper issue there is value and self-worth. When you know that creativity is the pathway – or one of the great pathways – to value and self-worth, it’s really a self-fulfilling prophecy not to engage, isn’t it? I don’t do it because I’m not worth making the time for, which in turn devalues your self-worth, because you’re not being creative. Oh, the tangled webs we weave!

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    1. Wow I think you’ve summed up a lot here Sara, thanks for your comments.

      Focusing without getting distracted by other creative projects is hard enough, but then these days we seem more overloaded with demands for attention from every possible angle. Sounds like you’re, um, focusing on what works for you and starting to make some headway?

      Love what you say about the deeper issue of value and self worth. So true.

      As I said in my reply above to Julie, it can be like a chicken and egg scenario – when we put time aside to create and really get focused, we remember how important it is, and how essential, and good we feel, so we then want more.

      But we have to make that commitment in the first place.

      Going back to your words – we need to value ourselves enough to commit the time and focus to creating regularly, and then our belief in ourselves and value of ourselves naturally rises and rises… Getting focused offers so many rewards beyond just the art we create…

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    1. Julie, I think maybe do some women feel they have to do and be everything – mother, partner, artist, homemaker, breadwinner, the list goes on, and something has to give, no-one can be all of these things all of time. But I think that’s more a sign of our crazy hectic times, rather than an exclusively female thing. I would expect most male artists feel the same dilemmas of trying to balance a number of different roles and commitments, and the same struggles to just get focused and give their full and best attention to one thing.

      Anyone who creates knows that when they’re in the flow of it they feel like nothing else can make them feel, and all the positive knock on effects that emanate from that state. Neglecting to give yourself the opportunities to create like that would have a reflection of how much you value your creativity, and your self.

      But I think what many of us overlook when we start down the route of “creating just for me is selfish”, or self-indulgent, is that we’re artists, we NEED to create. When we don’t, we’re unhappy, that has an impact on those around us. When we do create regularly we’re much happier and more fulfilled, which also has an impact on those around us, a positive one. How can that be selfish?

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  6. S.T.R.E.S.S. outside the home, i.e. W.O.R.K. is what really slaps me in the forehead and pushes me away from being creative – at home! Go figure that out…

    I come home stressed, want to sit down and work on a project but feel so “eaten alive” by my day that all I can do is clamp my jaw and try to be human to the people I live with. They don’t need to hear about it, and I don’t really want to talk about it. Talking could help, but not to them! So…

    …perhaps I need a S.T.R.E.S.S. journal/file where I can just go and dump it all out. Was using 750words.com for some of that, then stopped because it wasn’t the type of writing I wanted to do. Maybe I should look at it differently. Maybe I should make fun of it all.

    Apparently “talking” about the S word does help, since it appears I just figured out a solution. Will give it a go!

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  7. I am afraid.

    I’m afraid of getting focused on the wrong thing.

    I’m afraid of getting focused and then getting lost in it and forgetting to take care of myself.

    I’m afraid of not having unfinished business. (Being caught up.)

    I’m afraid of moving forward in my biz life.

    I’m afraid of trading these unfinished activities in for new unfinished activities. (At least I know what these ones are.)

    I’m afraid of being mean to myself when I’m working on my single project or task. (Because that’s how I used to do it. So I basically stopped making myself do a lot of projects and tasks which severely affected the growth of my business.)

    Thank you for asking and prompting this closer look…

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    1. Mona, thanks so much for your openness.

      Fear has a lot to answer for hey?

      We all have fear, it’s natural.

      A secret between you and me – Getting this book finished and out there has taken me about twice as long as I wanted. I’ve had periods of amazing focus and productivity, but other times where I know I’ve been dragging my heels because of various fears – what if everyone thinks it’s rubbish, what if people laugh at my efforts, what if I only sell one copy, what if all that work “goes to waste”?

      We have to keep stepping up and creating and communicating because there are people out there that need what only we can offer them in our unique voice.

      No -one else can be you, and we need to to be you Mona…

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  8. It’s a very intense thing to take a close look at, actually. Uncomfortable. But sometimes discomfort can be the harbinger of truth, right? DIfficult to own our devaluation of ourselves…

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    1. Sara, yes it’s really uncomfortable at times… But think about how amazing you’re going to feel when you’ve faced up to that discomfort, gone through it, are focused on creating like never before? It’s going to be wonderful… πŸ™‚

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  9. Too many commitments at once stops me from getting focused on just one thing at a time. I get focused or at least I get the various commitments completed and on time, but not in any sort of comfortable, centred, focused way. More like a random chaotic way…. juggling all the requirements at once and praying I don’t drop a ball!

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    1. Then the problem is Nancy that you never give any of those “juggling balls” your full attention, no project or person gets the benefit of the full, incredible you. What would it be like to know that you were working on fewer things, but that each of them were getting much more of the real highly creative you?

      Thanks for your contributions. πŸ™‚

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  10. I really identify with the self worth factor of actually doing something which I enjoy which may be seen as frivolous in the eyes of those we give our power to and…
    OH yes… and the ever present inner critic challenging my every creation and whether it is good enough to be “spending” so much of my time on.

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  11. 1. I embrace the fact that creative work involves a combination of soft focus and hard focus. If one is softly focussed, one can take in a lot of data, observation, inspiration…even while, or particularly while, doing other things. When I am involved in things I have to do, or other things I want to do, like walking in the neighborhood park, I enjoy knowing it’s a good chance for random association of ideas- and I feel them happily as they happen, even though I am not purposefully getting something creative done. Lots of creative ideas happen when one isn’t focussing at all! So I feel no guilt about that and don’t consider that time unproductive from a creative standpoint.
    It’s the elaboration and evaluation of ideas that takes focus. I am blessed that I can move very hard and fast when I have a window to work, so sometimes I have drafted a whole piece of design when it comes flowing into my mind while standing focussed on the side-walk. I come home and type it up. (Obviously if I were a painter, this wouldn’t work, but a sketchbook on the spot could help).
    2. In terms of distractions, sometimes there are multiple creative things I urgently want to do, so I schedule them within my days, usually sequentially. I know the research says we cannot really multitask- only switch back and forth. Transition time is costly, as one needs to change from one set of ideas to another. Switching from doing your math homework to writing a poem and then back to math and back to the poem makes little sense to me! So when an idea pops into mind about a project I am not working on (which is fine as such cross-fertilization is a net plus), I do jot the idea down so I won’t continue thinking about the other project in order not to forget my thought. And then I get back to the business at hand!
    3. I have worked with a lot of people whose very frustration with not feeling productive is stifling. Accepting the other things we do out of love or need, like child-rearing or working, can give us a sense of wholeness or integration that I think can help a person see the whole of life as part of the creative enterprise, as we toggle between the things we do. Child-rearing is also an art, one of the creative enterprises we can smile about.

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    1. Fritzie, thanks so much for your in depth thoughts…

      I love that distinction between soft and hard focus. Never heard it put like that before, it’s like the gathering/percolating kind of creating versus the actually getting your tools out and making stuff kind of creating. Both essential parts of the creative process…

      The way you schedule your projects, and particularly how you note down ideas, sounds very similar to what I do. Yes it doesn’t really work switching rapidly between tasks, I hate that anxiety in your stomach and light headedness that arises in that kind of surface skimming state, as opposed to the deep, calm contentment when your whole (creative) being is submerged in one project. Taking a few seconds to note down any unrelated ideas that pop into our heads I’ve found is an excellent way of managing our constantly creative whirring minds, and much better than letting new ideas keep nagging at us and distracting the flow of the project in hand.

      Completely agree about parenting, it’s possibly the single most creative act there is. You’re shaping another person’s whole life. The wholeness idea is very important too – both within the realms of being a creative artist and all that different elements that come together in harmony (sometimes!) there, and in our lives as a whole…

      Thanks for so much to think about…

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  12. With me it’s simply a question of time! I urgently need to make money from my creative efforts and that takes up an enormous amount of time and effort on top of all the other humdrum demands of everyday life. Sometimes it feels as if I’m having to ‘kill the golden goose’! Am trying to find ways around this but not come up with anything yet!

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    1. Is it really about time Judy, or being more focused with the time you do have? Or is it about making your creative art a higher priority? If suddenly it was decreed there was going to be 28 hours in a day, would those extra four help you be more creative? Honestly? I don’t know your situation, I’m just curious, because I know what my answer would be… πŸ™‚

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  13. I self-sabotage myself due to unrealistic perfectionist tendencies.

    I also have a huge list of projects I’m interested in but my real life obligations usually interfere.

    I know the time is available there for me to utilize. I just have a hard time getting started and prioritizing.

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