the art of focusing

As a creative person I never questioned why I was so easily distracted. I never thought twice how time was able to get away from me. I just knew I had to focus harder in order to block out all the noise and distractions around me. I look back on the hours put into my paintings and still can’t believe the intense effort it took. The only way I got through it was to listen to books on tape to keep my mind from wandering. I put in long hours, sometimes ten hours a day. Try working six days a week—sometimes seven—at this pace. It wore me out. My mind was dulled to the point where I couldn’t carry on an intelligent conversation. I was often irritable as well.

When I was told I had ADD, it explained so much. While I was accused of being disorganized, I knew I had a sense of order, just not like everyone else’s. It was up to me to figure out a way to stop exhausting myself and maximize my energy better.

I now approach my work with intelligence. I’ve learned my brain has maybe two hours of real concentration at one sitting and to push past that won’t give me better production. My work habits have changed because of this realization. Instead of hours of painting, I go into my studio ready to put in one to two hours at most. I quit working the minute I hear that voice in my head telling me to stop. This is important. If I don’t listen I can be sucked in again working long into the night, and most likely, overwork the painting.

Sometimes it’s best to leave the studio even when I have a little more energy to paint. When the work goes well, I’m excited the next day to get back to it. Somehow, the painting moves faster when it feels effortless.