Take back your creative attention

Recently I was talking with a writing client about how a specific feature of Facebook works. At one point I said, “I don’t have Facebook on my phone, I’ll look at it when I get back in front of a computer.”

She stopped and deadpanned, “You are a media specialist, and you don’t have Facebook on your phone?”

My reply was simple: “Nope. I found it too distracting and too invasive.”

I remember when I deleted it from my phone, it was one of those moments where you realize that everything is a choice, and everything is negotiable. You get to decide where you put your time and attention.

This is critical for writers, who often try to squeeze in the craft of writing amidst life’s many other responsibilities.

This is something I talk to writers about all the time. In my Creative Shift Mastermind, we begin with everyone doing an exercise called Clarity Cards. Each writer chooses the goals that are most important to them.

In my current Mastermind, author Jeannie Ewing shared this soon after we began:

“I have started writing my memoir, mainly because of my involvement and accountability here in the Mastermind. I’ve written almost 15,000 words in 2 weeks for the first draft of my memoir. Now that the habit has been established, it’s much easier to get into the flow every day. The last couple of days, I’ve surpassed my goal of 1,000 words effortlessly.”

Jeannie’s life is full of important responsibilities. Yet once she found the clarity of what she wanted with her writing, she was able to focus her attention to get words on the page quickly.

That means making sometimes polarizing choices. Here are some other things I don’t have on my phone:

  • Facebook Messenger or the regular Facebook app.
  • Any Google apps (except YouTube.)
  • Any apps that I don’t use all the time. I regularly delete apps, with the goal of the absolute minimum number of apps on my phone.
  • While I have email on my phone, I only check it on my phone in rare (almost emergency-like) situations.
  • I turned off Siri, and I turn off a lot of functions that are meant to make my life magically easier. I can live without that kind of magic.
  • I regularly go into the settings of each app to remove functionality, like location tracking, access to photos, etc.

In short: I want my phone to do less. Why? Because I want to have the freedom to decide where I put my time and energy each day. To me, my phone is not meant to be a gateway to all things. It’s a just a tool.

What I find is that by removing functionality from the phone, it allows me to focus more on the few things that matter. Such as writing, working with writers, playing guitar, spending time with those who inspire me.

You get to choose where you put your attention. If you are a writer struggling to find even a moment during the week where you can write, I would encourage you to take back your creative attention.

Focus on just a few things that matter most to you, and lean in way harder than you think is reasonable. For your creative work, be unreasonable in your pursuit of your craft, and forging meaningful connections with readers.