One of the greatest enemies of creativity is what Eastern wisdom refers to as “monkey mind.” The mind that hops from here to there and back again in the brain’s branches. (“Let’s see, what was I writing? – Oh, I need to return that phone call, don’t I? Gosh, and I’m out of coffee…. Now, let’s see, what was I writing?”)
Another great enemy is the belief that we, as adults, should be able to multi-task. That we are, in fact, more valuable or capable because we can multi-task. Multi-tasking is, I’m afraid, is a plague perpetrated upon us by bosses who want to see just how much work we can do for the same pay. ( Yes, I am labor, not management.)
Sometimes life itself requires us to multi-task, sure. But few of us achieve that Zen state of mind – called synaesthesia – in which we are both calm and focused in the midst of a confusion and distractions and able to execute a task well. Achieving synaesthesia is why producers of live TV, who have to read feeds from multiple cameras, and NFL quarterbacks, who have to read a field of jumping, pushing, running bodies and find a receiver, get the big bucks. They are among a rarefied few.
The rest of us tend to experience stress and confusion, when we try to deliver anything of creative quality in a hailstorm of demands and interruptions. Our work suffers.
For this reason, I highly recommend that you remove all distractions from the space in which you want to create.
Eliminate all visual clutter. Stacks of laundry, the pile of unpaid bills and unanswered invitations, even – though they may not like this – pictures of your lover and kids. Remember “monkey mind”? Any branch the mind can grab onto can tempt you to swing off into the mental forest.
On the other hand, I highly recommend:
Use prompts. If you are writing a memoir, carefully selecting photos or mementos can have the opposite effect of visual clutter by focusing the mind. Especially if you focus only on a single picture or one or two mementoes that open the gates of memory. Proust was inspired to write his multi-volume Remembrance of Things Past by looking at (well, okay, eating) a madeleine. (But then, one would expect such erudition from a French baked good.)
Carefully chosen prompts – even certain words – are known to act as powerful meditational devices. Which is why mantras and prayers, as well as thangkas, icons, frescoes and sculptures have been employed for millennia to effect and empower spiritual focus.
The mind is the gateway to the deep interior, where creation springs from. And it is my experience that a creator’s need to create is as essential to their health and sense of wellbeing as air, light, water, nourishment. Our first work is to create an uncluttered space, in which mental focus for creation can come into a laser-sharpness.