3 Creative Focus Questions for 2013

For the past several years, focus has been a key theme in my life. In juggling several large writing projects and running The Grove Center for the Arts & Media (a non-profit ministry for artists), I’ve often struggled with where to focus my best energies during the day. In 2013, I am asking myself, “What is my creative focus for 2013?” (You can read my answer in the Comment Section below.)

As you move into these first few weeks of 2013, I have three simple questions that I believe will make a tremendous difference in your creative life. Asking these questions and regularly revisiting them will lead to a more fulfilling, meaningful and productive year. I recently read a Steve Jobs interview where he talked about the importance of focus… Read on…



In the early days of Apple, Steve Jobs said, “We do more by doing less.”

Did you get that?

You will do more by doing less!

Do you believe that?

Your creative focus is essential to the quality of your work. You simply can’t do it all. So here are three questions that artists and creatives have found helpful in the creative coaching work we do together.

1. What can you CANNOT not do?

Whether you are a musician, film maker, dancer, writer or visual artist, what can you CANNOT not do? It’s a different kind of question than “What MUST you do?” or “What SHOULD you do?” because for many people, the “musts” and “shoulds” we put on ourselves tend to be old tapes stemming from our families of origin, ruler-smacking nuns or Nazi-piano teachers.

“What can you CANNOT not do?” is a question more closely tied to your unique wiring. The creative voice given to you by God.

Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night, thought about your art or creative life and said to yourself, “I CANNOT not do this.”

That voice inside of you is closer to the voice of God than you may think. (Click here if you’d like to Tweet this.)

It just may be the voice of God!

If you don’t do this (fill in the blank)________, you will shrivel and slide into a drainpipe. Your spirit will dry up and die.

If you don’t answer this question with crystal-clear specificity, it will be quite difficult to develop the creative focus you desire.

But go for it, I know you can.

2. What creative activity is most life-giving?

As you create, how do you feel most alive? I’ve recently been meeting with an incredibly talented young man who has identified his unique voice as “creating something out of nothing.” He feels closest to God when he’s creating. The result? Amazing, life-giving, high-quality work that he enjoys.

Once you identify the creative activity, discipline or media you work in best, ask yourself, “What other activities compete with these life-giving activities? Do I fill my life with busyness and not create space in my life for what brings me joy? Am I addicted and attached to busyness with no margin in my life?”

If you want to develop a strong and compelling creative focus for 2013, you need to be ruthlessly honest with yourself and ruthless with your schedule. I wrote about this in: Be Creative: Just Say No!

3. How can you “Do More by Doing Less?”

It’s the old “80/20 Principle.” You know the answer to this question. Time for me to shut up.

I’d just like you to consider writing in your journal about it today or jotting down a few ideas. If you’d like, use the comment section below. Process this question out loud in the space below. I’d love to strike up a conversation with you about this.

Happy New Year!

Questions: Pick any of these questions above…how can answering these questions help you develop a greater creative focus in 2013?

I’d love your comments and questions.


Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive, snarky or off-topic.

  • Joey O’Connor

    My creative focus for 2013 is to intentionally do more by doing less. My focus is increasing the time I spend studying the craft of screenwriting while, at the same time, carving out more time to write. I also plan to start painting more, which I haven’t done for the past couple years. The biggest hindrance to my writing schedule is saying “Yes” to too many meetings. Going to practice saying “No” more often.

  • deborah

    I can paint and create in the glouris presence of God all day. When it comes to getting my work out and marketing I just want to crawl under a rock. Then I get frustrated cause I am not selling. Kind of a crazy cycle. I have even told myself you are not allow to make any more art until you sell some work . Never works cause the pull to go into my studio is very strong. Crazy Artist after Gods Heart. Deborah

    • Joey O’Connor

      Many artists struggle with marketing their art. Yes, it can be a crazy maker. Finding a balance between trying to sell your art and making it is a challenge, but I would always lean towards creating more art. There’s simply so many things to be gained from it. What the world needs is more original art from artists who are focused on improving their craft versus more commercial art that is replicated again and again.

      I would listen to that pull to go into your studio. It just may be God speaking to you!

  • http://twitter.com/MKanene Mariel Kanene

    I recently came across an article entitled “Busyness is Not a Virtue” (http://blog.idonethis.com/post/45912361388/busyness-not-virtue ). In short, busyness is distinguished from priority. So often we cite “being busy” as a reason for our lack of interest or delayed action. When in reality, the reasoning behind our unrelenting schedules tend to stem from what we believe to be priority. Instead of constantly replying to others with “I can’t because I am too busy…”, switching it to “I won’t because that’s not a priority…” increases our self awareness and focus for what truly moves us.

    We are steadily beginning to settle into 2013. These are times when New Years Resolutions are truly tested. My focus for 2013 is to priortize developing my craft as a visual artist into that of a more focused writer. Busyness tends to be my thorn of hinderance. Effectively prioritizing the time to commit and enrich my art, is something I have begun to further explore…but not without struggle of course.

    • Joey O’Connor

      Mariel, thank you for your thoughtful response. The excuse of “busyness” is really a misnomer. We all live with the same 24 hour clock. It is a question of choices and priorities, not busyness. Thanks for your keen insights…hopefully, increased self-awareness with help us to become more truthful with ourselves and others.