I don’t have to tell my readers, life is full of distractions. When was the last time any one of us had more than ten minutes to think without a text message coming through, a phone call or an e-mail that HAD to be answered AT ONCE!
Creative thinking requires concentration. You need to get into a state (now fashionably referred to as “flow”) where ideas filter through the unconscious mind and come out in new forms. I am often asked what I listen to when I am painting and my questioner is usually surprised to hear “Nothing. I require total silence.” There’s no such thing as “background noise” to me; any noise, especially the human voice, is a distraction.
Do I get lonely? Sure, but not while I’m working. I have to get into a creative zone before anything new and interesting emerges and that requires time and isolation. It might take a couple of hours before my hand relaxes enough to turn out something worthwhile. I have no idea how someone can paint in a communal art studio where you hear other people’s conversation and music. At least, I never could. The best solution I know is the old Paris café where artists worked in solitude, (often, like Chagall and Picasso, locking their doors against visitors) and then spent the evening chatting with friends and colleagues. Studio visits (if any) were carefully planned so as not to disrupt “the flow.”
We live in a world of multi-tasking, another way of describing doing many things, not AT once – that is physically impossible - but rapidly switching from one activity to another. In addition, we are subject to endless distractions and become easily addicted to our electronics. You have only to watch people at a party sneakily checking their iPhones while appearing to converse with you. What are they expecting that can’t wait an hour or so? An invitation to be Cinderella at the Ball? It takes enormous discipline (which I don’t have) not to check my e-mail with ever increasing frequency. We start out being “connected” for good reasons: young children alone at home, your spouse needs to be picked up at the train, etc. and before you know it, you are hooked, an electronic junkie!
I find it interesting that “mindfulness” and “meditation” classes are so popular nowadays, teaching people how to turn off the babble in the brain and just shut down. When the mind begins its chatter, you are told to “let it go,” empty your consciousness of thoughts and worries. “Breathe,” the teacher says, “Breathe.” It’s amazing how relaxing it is to just sit and breathe in and out; you become aware of how tense and ‘wired up’ you are. In one of the articles I read before writing this blog, the author suggested just letting your tongue hang out for a minute or two. She admitted you would look ridiculous, but said it was a great way to unwind. I may give it a try. If not, I’ll just “breathe.” The world isn’t going to miss me while I’m catching my breath.
P.S. During the hour or so I spent writing this, I received four phone calls, three from telemarketers. I didn’t answer any of them, but it was hard to get back my flow. Next time, I’ll turn everything off (or at least, I’ll try).