Is Attention Addiction Suffocating Your Creativity?

photography by dan james
photography by dan james

As artists, sharing our work is a crucial part of our lives.

I’ve spoken recently of the Enablist ethos of Create, Share and Encourage, and sharing is fundamental to that.

When we share our work, we inspire others by the beauty and impact of the work itself, as well as how we’re leading by example and showing up and creating consistently.

But there’s a dangerous dark side to sharing that can be easy to get drawn into. And when we do, it means our work suffers drastically.

Do you recognise any of the following behaviours?

– You comment on other people’s work, in the hope to get more attention for your own, either by leaving links to your own work in the reply, or by promoting it (however subtly) in your words.

– You revisit the places you’ve shared your work online almost obsessively to check the number of views/ favourites/ likes/ comments your work has garnered since the last time you visited, seven minutes ago.

– You realise you’ve started to create work in a manner akin to a factory production line, because it’s the type of work that’s getting you attention, even though after the 7th/17th/107th almost identical version you’ve churned out, you’re bored, uninspired and desperate to try creating something radically different.

If any part of the above behaviours is ringing bells of recognition for you, it’s time to step back and take a look at whether you might have a case of attentionus addictivis, to give the condition its Latin name…

The problems that arise when you get drawn into crowd pleasing and approval chasing ultimately all boil down to the same end – you’re spending less time creating the new work that thrills you and sets you alight.

Either you’re choosing to spend less time creating, because you’re busy with all the praise seeking and approval counting, or the new work you are creating is not what you really want to be exploring, it’s just what you think other people will give you most attention for.

Or both of these.

It’s a natural human desire to be liked, to be accepted, to belong, that’s not in question.

What I am asking you to question is whether that desire is being put ahead of the desire to create your most important and meaningful work.

When you do only create what you think others will respond to, you’ll never get the same satisfaction as when someone responds to work you feel is a full and beautiful and unique expression of yourself.

One person whose life is genuinely changed and inspired by your most personally fulfilling work, is worth one thousand people who give your latest, almost identical to the last, factory line trinket a passing like or +1.

It’s about your True Fans, not fair-weather followers who also happen to be following three thousand other artists and giving them just as casually glancing and ultimately meaningless lip service.

Your True Fans are desperate for you to share your most meaningful and vital work. You cannot ignore them.

If you don’t create that work, you’re robbing them of the opportunity to have their lives changed for the better, and most likely inspiring them to create more of their own most meaningful and vital work.

And you’re robbing yourself of the feelings of fulfilment that can only come from this pursuit.

If we all created purely to satiate our attention addiction, the world would soon be filled with homogenised, vacuous artwork that meant nothing to anyone, yet we’d all be churning it out.

I don’t know about you, but that’s a very depressing and meaningless kind of world to think about.

It doesn’t have to be like this.

We can stop it. We can change it.

So, I invite you to take a closer look at your online behaviour, and how much of it involves seeking attention just for the sake of attention, instead of focusing on the work that’s smouldering inside you, desperate to burst out.

Tell us about your attention addiction, I’m sure we can help…

 

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