How to Numb Your Creativity
We use technology today as a social crutch. And by choosing to do so, we destroy our quiet moments of creative insight.
Lines in grocery stores. Waiting at a restaurant for a friend. Dining alone. Waiting for friends at the bar while they go to the washroom. Sitting in an airport, waiting for our plane to arrive. Technology has become our medication for boredom, for “looking” idle, and for socially awkward moments. It numbs our ability to be mindful and present, as it numbs our ability to be creative.
We use technology to fill the time in our day where we might be left with uncomfortable thoughts. We waste time on applications like Pinterest or Instagram looking for the next big idea rather than celebrating the quiet mind, our inner exploration. It becomes an addiction to ideas rather than to the art.
We choose mind numbing activities over living a life filled with emotion, soul-searching and self-fulfillment. We seek other’s answers to our problems instead of looking within.
We need to choose our creativity.
This “medication” is problematic for our creative process.
We get stuck at idea and never move forward with our creative interests because we use technology as a crutch, as an avoidance tool for doing the real work.
The real work isn’t just putting paint to canvas, it’s the inner work that gives us room, confidence, and encouragement to take creative risk. That fear can be easily drowned out in a sea of online media sharing amazing success stories of artists, or the social media tool that offers you the next big idea. We remain in a sea of maybes and what ifs. It feels safer. And we don’t have to really hear that quiet but persistence voice that calls us to create.
We need to make a choice to hear and celebrate the persistent inner voice encouraging us to become maker and creator. That means honoring our creative process. It means sitting in quiet, disconnected from our mobiles or tablets, letting our mind wander, think, calculate. It means staring at a blank canvas without worrying about the time, or what we “should” be doing. Because we know: we are doing “the real work” right now. Sitting here.
Today is not vilification of technology. Technology is not the devil, it is our ally. We use and abuse the tool as we choose to for our own needs.
We need to identify and reflect on the steps in our creative process to stop numbing our creative minds. Knowledge of our process keeps us growing, learning, and utilizing our skill set to develop as creatives. Ignorance of the process encourages us to fester in a state of new ideas without action.
It’s hard to change a behavior, especially one so addictive and comforting. There will be tests. Instead of getting up first thing in the morning and checking your phone, how about grabbing your journal and eating a quiet breakfast? How about a nice walk with your camera, looking for some new colors or photo references? It sounds nice enough, but when you wake up and every inch of you aches to turn on your phone “just to see what’s happening” you know it’s a test. It’s your challenge. Do you want your art or do you want to be numb? It is a choice.
Here are several strategies we can use to stop numbing our creative minds:
Refuse to check social media or your mobile/tablet/computer until AFTER your creative time.
Social media colors our world, for good and for bad. When we open social media first thing in the morning we prime ourselves for whatever news, emotions and energy OTHER people are experiencing. We don’t get time to check in with ourselves first. A lot of research suggests social media can even make us feel bad about our lives. This is why it’s important to first take care of ourselves; we are then more emotionally prepared for the informational and emotional bombardment that is social media.
Keep your creative research/brainstorming time and art making time separate.
We all need time to tool around on Pinterest, or wander through our favorite artist group on Facebook. It’s a great way to get inspired, share ideas, and brainstorm in a community. Keeping this time separate from time you allot to your creative activities helps you sift through all the ideas and inspiration and gives you dedicated time to your art-making. I’ve lost entire afternoons of painting time because of “the good ideas” and “research” I was doing for my art.
Time your creative research.
Internet and our constant media bombardment can mean we lose track of time while we research. That’s how we lose afternoons dedicated to writing our novel to self-publishing strategy and networking. Get an old-school egg timer. Or, use a timer on your phone or computer. When the buzzer buzzes… you know it’s time to stop. You can easily clip articles to save via bookmarking or Evernote to read later when it’s time to research again.
Have one day a week without social media; use that day to be creative.
Taking an entire day from email and social media can really offer opportunity for mindfulness, for a quiet mind. It forces us to be more present and available to loved ones, to time with our art, and can be a calming influence on the busy-ness we celebrate in today’s culture. I do this periodically (maybe once or twice a month) and I’ve found a deeper sense of peace and connection to my art when I truly disconnect.
Countless people reach out telling me they get caught up in a sea of ideas, only to be wistful of the projects that live in their head, but that they never seem to realize. This isn’t just about getting up and doing the work: this is about an inner mindset that encourages or discourages your creativity.
It’s time to resurrect our inner voice, that kind, encouraging mentor that tells us our ideas are worthy of paint on canvas, pencil to paper, needle and thread.
For me, technology provides the connection I sometimes miss here in Muscat. American. Female. Entrepreneur. Artist. Teacher. I seek like minded souls and connections with people all over the world I’m sure in part because I don’t always find it where I’m living. It is a tool for connection, for learning and for growth.
I knew how reliant I was on my technology when my internet stopped working for 6 weeks. Companies are less than reliable about follow up so I’d drive to nearby cafes who sometimes wouldn’t have internet themselves. I felt so helpless and frustrated. All of a sudden my loved ones weren’t just a video phone call away. All of a sudden my business I’ve been growing was much harder to develop. And my web building and design of the website had to go on the back burner. I wanted to scream and shout. I wanted to move. I wanted to give up.
Instead, I adjusted. I accommodated. And I pursued that local company to fix my service with renewed vigor. I wrote. I don’t need the internet to do everything for Artist Think. It reminded me I’m much better at writing when I first brainstorm by hand, when I have no distractions around me, and that I’m faster and more efficient without the mind numbing technology (medication?) called social media. I found my voice again.
Technology can be a tool to help us grow and learn, or a crutch that prevents us from creative expression. The connection to our art and community comes from within, from our individual choice to create, or not.
Our world is better for each and every person that connects with their creative interests. Are you part of that change? Or do you remain numb to your creativity? Choose you. We all deserve it.
ARTIST THINK ACTION: How do you navigate the balance between technology and your creative acts? I want to know! Tell me about it in the comments below.
Article originally appeared on Artist Think.