Question of the Week #6: How do you handle interruptions, distraction or lack of focus?

Welcome to the Art, Life & Faith Question of the Week #6: How do you handle interruptions, distraction or lack of focus? Okay, I know that may be a risky question for some of you, so I’ll go first. I’m not going to lie to you. As a writer, producer and executive direction of a non-profit organization, I frequently wrestle with interruptions, distraction and lack of focus in my work. Did you hear that? Frequently!


I can’t claim that I suffer from ADD, ADHD, or TBI (traumatic brain injury), though I do know several people who do. I don’t think I’m alone on this focus issue. Artists and creative people aren’t the only ones who have to deal with interruptions, distractions and lack of focus. Read on…

However, since most artist’s income is dependent on completing projects and creative assignments, staying focused is critical to one’s livelihood as well as the quality of the work. When it comes to interruptions, distraction or an overall lack of focus in our work, there’s much you and I could talk about. To get us started, let me throw out a few thoughts and ideas…

1. Interruptions Happen to You.

A co-worker barges into your office. The phone rings. Your email beeps. The kids come screaming in your house. There’s a knock on your door. You and I can’t completely eliminate interruptions from our creative work, but we can do our best to set boundaries so we can stay focused. Let the voicemail pickup. Turn off our email software. Refuse to answer the door. Practice saying, “No.” As I writer, I can always leave my home if it gets too crazy and hunker down at Starbucks. (Much more difficult for a visual artist or dancer!)

How we handle interruptions has a lot to do with how quickly we can get back into the creative jet stream. That’s one of the reasons why we create, right?

2. Distractions Happen to Other People

Did I just say that? No, we allow ourselves to get distracted. I can’t speak for anyone, but myself. When I am writing or working on a project, it usually starts with a little excuse, “Oh, I’ll just check my email…I’ll just see if so-and-so responded to me on Facebook…check my Twitter…water my plants…hmm, a handful of trail mix with those chocolate bits sounds really good now…” And so on and so on.

For me, though my friends would probably say I’m pretty disciplined, the core of distraction is a lack of discipline. Once the brilliance and energy of a new idea wears off, the fatigue, challenge and pain of bringing that new idea to completion eventually sets in. Discipline is what separates the men from the boys and the ladies from the girls. I wrote about it here in 7 Hard Questions Every Artist Must Ask.

3. Lack of Focus Begs A Series of Questions

If you find yourself struggling with an overall lack of focus in whatever creative project you’re working on, your lack of focus may be tied to a whole host of other issues.

Ask yourself: How is my health? Am I getting enough rest, exercise and eating right? Did I have one glass of wine with dinner or did I polish off the bottle? Is worry or stress affecting my focus? Am I overwhelmed with the scope of this project? Do I have too many things on my plate? Is my lack of focus really just sloth or laziness? Have I set too tight a deadline? Do I have the necessary resources to finish this project well? How are my relationships with others and God? Is relational conflict suffocating my heart? Am I fooling myself…am I just not into this current project? What choices can I make that will lead to more creative freedom and initiative to bring this work to completion? Do I simply need to practice courage, fortitude and perseverance?

In a recent Saying Yes to Art video interview with sculptor Karen Schmidt, she offered these words of wisdom, “When you say ‘Yes’ to your art, you will face a 1000 no’s.”

Lots of questions I know…we have a lot we can learn from one another.

I’d love your comments and feedback.

In case you missed…

Question of the Week #5: What has been your most challenging work as an artist?

Question of the Week #4: What would you say to an artist struggling with a project?

Question of the Week #3: As an artist, what does a good day look like?

Question of the Week #2: How do you define success?

Question of the Week #1: What is the worst thing someone has said to you about WHY you SHOULDN’T pursue your art?

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