4. Distractions

by karen orlowski

Growing up, my mom and dad always nagged me about procrastinating, especially while attending community college my freshman year. I’d have a paper due Tuesday, let’s say, and I wouldn’t actually get around to writing it until about 11:00 pm Monday night. I wasn’t worried, so why were they? It’s not like I wasn’t thinking about it- trust me, it felt like a 50 lb dumbbell on my shoulder. But I just didn’t know what I wanted to say. I’ve always had this issue- I get a writing assignment and immediately think that I need to write some sort of universal truth. Luckily I became an ad major and realized everybody else has similar issues. Maybe not about the universal truth part, but about waiting for the right idea to hit them.

I remember I had to make a scrapbook for an English class in high school after reading The Grapes of Wrath. I waited to start it until 8:00 p.m. one night (luckily it wasn’t due the next day), and I stayed up working through the next morning. I was proud that I was done, but my dad’s feelings didn’t quite match: “WHY DIDN’T YOU GET ANY SLEEP?” (Maybe I should take him to the Knight Library.)

I stumbled upon this article from Design Taxi, titled “Seeking A Convenient Distraction.” It’s a good read overall illustrating a basic, universal creative process that I would argue many of us go through:

  • Grab coffee, begin brainstorming, and wait for caffeine to kick in. Open new word document, and stare at blank screen while waiting for the perfect idea. Check email, Facebook, Twitter, and other “not so blank” pages. Realize two hours have been wasted. Convince yourself that you will think better if your room/kitchen/bathroom, etc. was clean. Stare at clock and watch it tick, counting the hours you have left to complete the task at hand. Freak out and engage in self-loathing for wasting time.

After reading The Creative Process Illustrated, I can really relate to this article. One common thing The Creative Process Illustrated and this article have in common is the acknowledgement of a state of fear/panic/self-loathing. Often times, industry professionals were quoted in The Creative Process Illustrated saying they often times feel like hacks when brainstorming. This article acknowledges a similar self-loathing phase:

  • The familiar anxiety that I struggle through before I can let go and allow myself to just create without expectation, without judgment or projection of the worse. I don’t always arrive at that place easily, sometimes it takes hours before I allow myself to lean into the discomfort and finally put the brush to the canvas.”

The article appeals to my creative process, as there is a lot of coffee and staring off into the distance involved in my own process. However, the article goes on to discuss the ways to prevent becoming distracted, and this is where I disagree. Distractions in journalism, advertising, public relations and any other related fields mean “brain food.” What I mean by that is, the common sites one resorts to when looking to be distracted, are sites that feed our minds with images, words, videos and other creations that can actually fuel our own original ideas to become lasting creations.

My favorite distractions:

Forbes, media bistro, ad age, adweek, creativity-online, i believe in advertising, help me be f*cking creative, techcrunch & THE ECONOMIST.