Attention and Creativity
Much has been recently said about the importance of focus and awareness for improving the quality of our work, and our life in general. You can find a variety of books, articles and TED talks devoted to the topic.
Regarding the importance of attention to creativity in particular, there are a couple of really vital connections that are worth pointing out.
These connections depend upon our senses and their link to memory, and, in turn, memory’s important role in creativity.
All of Our Senses
It’s tempting to think of “attention” as something we “pay” through a function of our gaze. For example, if we’re speaking to someone who stops looking at us, we may feel as though they aren’t paying attention. Conversely, if someone admonishes us to “pay attention,” we’re likely to look straight at them to demonstrate that oh yes, we are.
Indeed, the eyes are a major source of information from the outside world. Out of all of our senses, the sense of sight dominates. But when we pay attention, or when we practice awareness, all of our senses can become involved in the processing of information, not just our sense of sight.
In fact, the truth is that our senses are taking in and processing information about the world all the time. Paying attention to this automatic processing enhances our experience by bringing the work of our senses into our conscious awareness.
Creating Rich Memories
Importantly, in order for our experiences to be encoded as particular types of rich, sensory-filled memories, we have to be paying attention. We have to be attuning to our world, to the colors, feelings, tastes, sounds, textures, sensations — to the embodiment of our moments.
If we’re not paying that kind of attention, we won’t remember in that rich, sensory way. We may remember in a more factual way. We will, one hopes, remember where we went and what we did. But we won’t be able to (literally) re-call the full sensory experience, because at the time, we weren’t really fully there.
Memory and Creativity
Now, the impact this has upon our creativity is profound. It has been said that creativity is a function of memory: we combine and recombine ideas, concepts, etc. into new arrangements until we find something that is new and valuable to us. These ideas, concepts, etc. exist in our memories.
As we’ve noted, some of the most potent memories are the ones that have been encoded and anchored with rich sensory detail. These are powerful sources of creative inspiration. They can sweep us back in time; they can suspend the present moment; they can conjure entire environments in our imaginations, in multi-dimensional splendor.
They can also precisely deliver just the right detail to stimulate our creative process — often when we weren’t expecting it.
How do we create these powerfully rich memories? By paying attention.
Making Creative Memories
I hope I’ve convinced you of the value of the practice of fully paying attention. Let me emphasize that it’s the work of our senses that really makes this possible. So please, go beyond the eyes (and the screens!) and into the multi-sensory world. Go make you some nice rich sensory memories!
Paying Attention is one of the practices in my guide, Four Proven Steps for Activating Your Creativity on Demand. If you’d like a copy of the whole guide, click here. You’ll be taken to a page where you can enter and confirm your email to download the free guide.