After reading Jessica Patient’s blog-post about distractions, I thought I’d chime in. I’ve spent this year so far re-discovering my creativity, and a big part of that is getting over the distractions and inertia that regular life offers – after all, couches are designed to be comfortable, and TV is made to be watchable. But part of being creative is working out why you’re not just relaxing on the couch with your favourite box set…
You can’t really list your distractions until you know what your work is. I once knew a guy who was an impoverished musician; for as long as I’d known him, he had been short of money. I’d regularly see him busking in town, and his clothes went through various states until they could best be described as “threadbare”.
One day he turned to me and said “money’s getting a bit short. I might have to go back to my old job – being a dentist”. Colour me every fucking shade of surprised! Steve, the genial musician who lived on nothing, had what I’d been looking for; the secret entrance to pots of cash and a steady career. Before he’d just been another guy on the same economic strata as me; now I saw that he was slumming it.
Of course, I was wrong.
“I just couldn’t take all the kids crying because of me”, he said. “I spent all day doing kids teeth, and they all hated me at the end of the day. So I quit”.
Steve wasn’t a penniless musician out of choice. He had walked away from one of the most profitable careers around because his distractions came at a base level of humanity. A level that he couldn’t ignore. I think a lot of distractions really function at this deep level, and that the things we use to distract ourselves are just tools.
Most of the time, we just don’t want to fail at doing something. We don’t want to make something ugly or clunky, something not perfect, and so we end up reading the paper or watching the TV rather than putting in the hard work to make something beautiful. That’s what I’m doing now; I’m not writing a short piece about distraction, I’m distracting myself, because when this is finished, I have to pick what my work is going to be.