Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Be Clenched - Be Curious

Do stuff. Be clenched, curious. [Don't wait] for inspiration's shove or society's kiss on your forehead. Pay attention. It's all about paying attention. Attention is vitality. It connects you with others. It makes you eager. Stay eager. 

~Susan Sontag, from a lecture about writing at Vassar College

Mr Pipo Think 03 texrays.svgfew days ago the Chicago Tribune posted a short article positing that distractability seemed to be a boon for creative types, spurring them to higher achievement. The idea is that people with "leakier filters notice more information in the world [and] this can lead to novel combinations of information. Some of the greatest artists in history had trouble concentrating," according to Darya Zabelina, lead author of this study. 

Conversely, people who easily filter out distraction are likely to have higher academic test scores.

A friend who has heard me complain more than a few times about the bombardment of so-called music that seems to be endemic in every store of any kind, tells me I am simply "overly sensitive to noise," saying she is seldom aware of it and, if she is, it doesn't distract her.  

I consider myself nominally creative in two or three areas and will allow that I likely have a touch of the "leaky sensory filter" syndrome. On the other hand, when I am at a task I enjoy and which demands my full attention, filtering out distractions comes easily.  

The most artistically creative person I know could be said to have a "leaky sensory filter." He is fascinated by everything and anything. It's often difficult for him to focus. 

The world holds excitement and he wants to experience all of it. His creativity comes out in sculpting, oil and watercolor painting, writing, jewelry making, crafting hand-made papers, etching, the list goes on and on. If the world holds a creative endeavor he hasn't tackled, it's as though he is compelled to experience it. 

«Олександрія»Изображение 399.jpgSontag tells the creative one, the creating one, it's all about paying attention. I understand this and I tend to agree. But, as the study by Zabelina seems to show, creative types have trouble filtering. They "pay attention" to everything!

I had the gift of knowing another highly creative person who made no bones about the fact that she simply was not "visual." She often commented on how many things I noticed, saying it was all so much minutiae to her. She also had the ability to filter out any sounds but those she chose to hear (her ears and mind became 100% focused and open when the "sounds" were the voices of those she loved). 

This woman had friends of all types and ages all around the world whom she mentored and loved unconditionally.   

Essentially, however, she lived inside her head. She thought, she read, she mulled, she parsed, she wrote poetry and prose, she created, she focused on... one...thing... at... a... time. Got it right. Then moved on. Nothing distracted her. 

I am aware creative types may be more easily distracted because they "notice more information in the world," and therefore have "more information to choose from," however, at some point they do need to block distractions and concentrate on the work at hand or else they never would "create." 

The ability to filter out and easily focus on a project right from the get-go doesn't apply only to the "academic types."

Stay eager!

Note: Second person, past tense. This amazing woman died in July 2014. The world is a darker place now that she is gone.