Whether you're reading this post on Facebook or on my blog site, stop for a moment and notice what other information sources are competing for your attention, just on the computer alone. How many other tabs are open? How many Facebook or blog posts have you read prior to this that are lingering in your mind, and how many have you glanced at as next in line? Are you multi-tasking, maybe researching a trip or purchase? And beyond the realm of the computer, is there a TV or radio on within your hearing, or is your significant other or your child trying to tell you something (and you're only giving half an ear?)
Even as I write this, I'm monitoring open tabs for incoming emails and Facebook notices, downloading some music, and approving a new member for my ning site. And that's just on the laptop. I'm also slightly distracted by a phone call I need to make, some logistics to work out for upcoming workshops, my husband's plans for the day, and news of more snow on the way. It's 10 a.m. and I feel like I've already reached information overload. It's normal life...I spend parts of every day immersed in this information soup, as most of us probably do. I love the benefits, the connections, conversations, awareness of issues, and other perks of our information culture. Yet I have no doubt that this flood of scattered bits of information creates stress--I can feel it in body and mind.
And it is interesting to consider that it also may tamp down creative focus, according to an article in the current issue of Newsweek magazine
. The article discusses the effects of too many bids for our attention on effective reasoning and decision making. This line in particular struck me, as an artist:
(research)...has shown that decisions requiring creativity benefit from letting the problem incubate below the level of awareness—something that becomes ever-more difficult when information never stops arriving.
For me, my studio is the antidote to information overload, because I control it in a conscious way to be conducive to painting. I only take a phone in there if I am expecting an important call, and there is no computer. Once in awhile I do listen to news on public radio, or a music station, and quite often I have my Ipod playing in its dock (usually at a "background" volume, unless I am looking for a particular energy.) But sometimes, I really prefer silence above all. For me (and this will be very individual,because we all have our strategies) creative focus and incubation come about more naturally and powerfully in a subdued atmosphere. I also value the quiet times I spend out walking, cross-country skiing and doing modern dance, all of which bring focus to a quiet center. Though I have never practiced formal meditation, I suspect it too would be excellent--and that all mind-quieting practices are related, and are vital for creativity.
The painting above--El Golfo
, 60"x36" oil and volcanic sand on panel.