Let’s not discuss how many times, while trying to write this article, I checked my email or looked at a Youtube or got up because I wanted to see what that weird noise was outside my window. (Hold on, I should check again.)
We try to dismiss how often we allow ourselves to be pulled away from our work; it’s rare to find the person who is willing to admit that those “five hours of hard work” on their new project was about an hour of actual work and four hours of Reddit. But there is a silver lining for those who can’t write a word or open Photoshop or dip a paintbrush without being sidetracked a hundred times like a caffeinated puppy. Having a hard time concentrating may actually proof that you’re exceptionally creative.
A new study looked at 100 people and their “sensory filters.” What that means is simple — the ability to put aside all that extraneous stimuli going on around you at all times and actually focus on what you’re supposed to focus on. This filter, for the most part, can’t be learned but is something that we develop at a young age and live with forever. And while yes, that may be why I had to stop writing and find “Live Forever” by Oasis on Spotify, it also means that when your filter is “leaky,” a lot more interesting and creative ideas enter your head.
As the researchers found out, those who had a more difficult time sifting out interference were also more likely to have a wider range of things to pull from and were therefore more inventive than those that had an easier time concentrating. If you have a leaky filter you pretty much have all this stimuli tapping you on the shoulder and saying, “It’s crazy, but have you ever thought about this?!”
Of course, while all of this excess noise, and your inability to block it out, may be at the root of your creativity, it also means you need to go that much further when it comes to blocking your distractions. Like this article. So turn off the damn internet and get back to work.