Creativity vs. Focus


Have you ever sat down with one idea in mind? Simply, one idea in mind and started trying to craft a story from it? I feel like that happens to me quite often. I’ll think of an idea, rush down the hall to my desk, open my laptop and begin typing. The first paragraph tends to come with ease, but then almost as soon as I start the second paragraph, another idea enters my mind. 

I’ll tell myself “It’s ok, file that idea in the back of your brain and keep typing.” I finish paragraph number two on topic, but then I run into the same problem. I have another idea, different than my first other idea. Agh… What am I to do? Stop writing? Trash the story all together? Or continue typing? 

This reminds me of years ago when the economy was booming, residential developers had construction projects going up around town. Then when the market crashed, all the finances for construction dried up leaving some subdivisions unfinished and left others with a road paved with no houses. These developers had at one time rushed in with the intent of capturing the hearts and minds of buyers in hopes that a family would experience their work of art and make that house their own. However, often there were too many projects going up at once which left many unfinished projects when things came crashing down.

While this is slightly different than writing a novel or short story, the message is similar. We are all in the process of creating brilliant works of art, but if we aren’t completely focused on the task at hand, no one will ever be able to fully appreciate the art where we devoted our time and energy. 

I feel like this scenario has happened to me for years now. However, when I was in school writing papers, I never seemed to experience this phenomena. Which left me searching for answers.

When I was in school it was easy to stay on topic. The teacher would distribute the topic for each paper. We would all rush to the library (later the internet) to do our research and then write the paper. The goal was simple. Follow the rules outlined by the teacher to get a good grade. Finish the class, move on to the next class and repeat the same process all over again. When we would write papers for our classes, rarely were the subjects something that I was interested in on my own. So there were no rabbit trails to chase, there were no threads of ideas to unravel until my soul felt heard. Because my creative energy wasn’t flowing, it was easier to remain focused. 

So how do you stay focused and produce marketable work when the things you are creating serve as a deeper personal meaning? Just imagine if every developer took a very focused interest in each neighborhood they were creating. It would be less about making tons of money all at once and more about creating imaginative experiences. While this is fun, it would be completely counter productive and the world would be hard to drive with a bunch of paved roads that don’t go anywhere.

In the same way, crafting great stories is an essential component of being a great storyteller. You have to stay focused in order to share your story. 

  1. Stay Committed. In every form of creativity there’s a season where you’ll have to continually show up and do the hard work before you can truly see all the progress your making along the way.
  2. Keep everything. Jot it down in notebook, record it on a voice memo, text it to yourself. But whatever you do. Keep everything.
  3. Reward yourself. Every hour that you spend completely focused on the task at hand, take a few minutes to relax. Get up take a walk, listen to some music. Escape for just a little bit so that you can come back focused and energized for the next block of time.


Daniel LaSheaAuthor, writer, creative