Ever know one of those people with a million great ideas? Some of them are actually good! But how many of them ever see the light of day? Let’s be generous and say one or two but most likely it’s none. Creativity is wasted without focus.
This may seem counterintuitive. When you think of creativity, you probably think of your minds bounding about without limits. And creativity can be like that and it feels great when it is. But turning that creativity into something that’s tangible is another thing. When you think of focus, you may think may think of narrowing boundaries. It may feel limiting. But it’s not.
I come from the world of nerds. In that world, creativity comes out of solving problems. “Let’s build an app so that people can do X that they’ve never done before.” That’s where you start. Then you focus. And that focus folds into itself until your focus is: “I have one bit of code that cancels out the other bit of code. How am I going to work around that?”
So there’s lots of creativity in focus. I can spend an hour pumping out 2000 words, or I can spend an hour trying to write one perfect sentence. At the end of the hour, I’ll have 2000 words that even I may find painful to read. Or I may have a sentence that perfectly sums up everything I tried to say in those 2000 words.
The devil is in the details. But I’d argue that so are the angels. Nothing feels better to me that my mind sinking into a flow state where everything melts away and I can focus solely on the words that are in front of me. We celebrate the daydreaming, and we should. But we should also celebrate focus. It’s focus that makes a scene sing because you’ve figured out how to get a character to the place she needs to by. Focus helps you find the perfect way to describe a skyline with just the right amount of foreboding. Without focus, we’d never have anything worth reading.
(And please don’t ask me what the image on this page has to do with any of this. I’m too unfocused right now.)