Paying attention? Not doing it could get you in big trouble: with your teachers, your spouse, your boss, your pals. Paying attention is a high quality activity. It’s one of those unspoken American values that is expected of any would-be achiever. Daydreaming, being distracted, is not. At best, it’s in the room for improvement arena. At worst, it’s in the DSM, as attention deficit disorder. And millions of people share that diagnosis.
Creative types have issues with all of this, especially the paying attention part. Creatives are more easily distracted. Our minds wander, slip sliding around thoughts, images and all the flotsam and jetsam sloshing around in our collective brains. Jumping around in all those creative leaps. So what’s up with all that?
Well, here’s a surprising bit of data for you: scientists are finding that inattention is part of the creative experience. Here’s a quote from a recent WSJ: “Researchers have found a surprising link between daydreaming and creativity — people who daydream more are also better at generating new ideas.”
The WSJ goes on: A new study found that student winners of science fairs and art shows are more likely to be diagnosed with ADD. They were able to achieve more than their peers, “their inability to focus turned out to be a creative advantage.”
Puts it all in a different light, doesn’t it. I find most of my creative leaps happen when I’m not working on a project. Somehow, the brain needs a break from conscious effort to do its deepest problem solving. And those little sojourns to elsewhere are often energizing. Which means you can be paying attention, even when you’re not.