Fighting for Focus

Newsflash: focusing is tough nowadays. I’m not even talking about the endless stream of information blasting our brains through social media and news sites and whatever - people with far better understanding of these concepts than me already analyzed every inch of them. Instead, I want to tackle this from a different perspective – one that I don’t think is being considered often: maintaining focus as a creator.

For a creator, the Internet is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, it opens an entire world of inspiration and ideas for you to explore, all within the tip of your fingers. Endless galleries of visual arts, limitless caches of technical knowledge, heaps of sound and tunes, and countless ideas, concepts and mindsets floating around in a cloud of information, just waiting to be discovered. There is so much to explore and learn online, to the point where some might even consider it over-saturated; but for a creator, this endless source of everything is crucial.

Yet on the other hand, it is this vastness exactly that makes the Internet into the bain of many creators as well. When witnessing and experiencing others’ work is so simple and effortless, one could quickly find itself lost within its endless halls. Being overwhelmed is just part of the problem here, though; the greater problem lies in our natural programming: competition. Our brains, hard-wired to constantly seek validation through our peers, immediately order it into a hierarchy of better versus worse – and soon enough, the inevitable comparison of ourselves to the rest of what’s out there begins.

Now, ask yourself this: how would you operate under the pressure of thousands of eyes gazing upon you as you go about your things? If even the thought of this makes you uncomfortable, then congratulations: you are now in the shoes of countless creators who face this on a daily basis. In this day and age, where everything and everyone is connected, nobody creates in a vacuum anymore: everything we make is immediately thrown into the mix and undergoes thorough analysis and comparisons to its kin. Whether we want this or not, this is our natural tendency.

This is when remaining focused becomes a battle.

No matter what it is you do or how successful you are in doing it, there is always the lingering feeling that someone is doing it better than you. I mean, isn’t it obvious? Except for some edge cases, there really is someone out there who can out-perform you, or someone who is more successful than you. It’s an integral part of the reality we are in. Yet in our competitive brains, this simple law translates into weakness. ‘To have someone better than you is to be weak’, claims our primitive brain – and this, in turn, adds layers upon layers of stress to everything you do. You end up constantly feeling like you’re in the shadow of someone else – and who could possibly remain focused like this?

This is something experienced universally among many creators. I am a victim of this mindset as well, sometimes. In my fields of choice, be it game development, writing, or similar crafts, it is not uncommon to be foreshadowed by someone else. Despite having objective benefits over another, it is still difficult to maintain proper focus and work efficiently when you constantly have to remind yourself that you… well, don’t suck; that not being at the very top doesn’t mean it’s the end or that you’re not worth it; that being at the very top is sometimes more harm than good, really. This is a mindset I had to drill into my skull over the last few years, especially due to the competitive nature of some of my recent projects (like CTTT). Glory comes from persistence, not perfection.

What’s my tip for anyone struggling with this, then? Remind yourself that hierarchy is inevitable, and that your place along the chain does not necessarily represent the quality of your work or creations. Talented creators may go completely undiscovered, while less talented ones find themselves topping the charts. At the end of the day, and despite what social media and the internet is pumping into our heads for years now: creation is not a contest. Set your goals according to what you think is right for you, not for whoever is in the spotlights. There is always time to climb the ranks later.

Focus. It’s your journey.