“It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.” I love any excuse to quote a beloved book and I find I can relate this phrase (from The Little Prince) to a lot of ideas, but the essence is that the more time, energy and devotion you place on one particular thing, the more valuable it will become. I find it relevant to the notion of creativity, especially as a young person today, in a world where technology provides us with all sorts of information, entertainment, news, images, and trends, which all tug at our consciousness and make it hard to stay focused on what we want to devote ourselves to.
It’s so easy today to get a vague and general idea about topics outside our realm – other fields, other countries, other people’s lives. Through short articles, Wikipedia entries, tweets, Instagram posts, adverts or videos, we can gather trivia and basic facts on almost anything, in no time. But there’s a difference between information and knowledge – it’s like the difference between reading a full book or essay for class and skimming it, or getting notes from your friend. With the latter, you might get the gist and be able to give some generic response but it’s not the same as properly taking the time to absorb something, meditate on it and cultivate a personal and meaningful response.
Creativity might have different definitions but I believe it’s something that comes from being honest about how you feel and how you see things, arriving at ideas and solutions through truthful analyses, and from such analyses making insightful connections. So how is this notion impacted in our fast-paced, over-stimulating modern lifestyle? The instantaneity of technology can force us to feel we must keep up, multitask and be efficient, which in turn can be a detriment to our ability to sustain attention. Research shows that attention is a gateway to our thinking – improving it enhances our perception, memory, language, problem-solving, decision-making and of course,
creativity. When we seek constant entertainment and immediate solutions, we can neglect time to be contemplative and opportunities to be creative.
Ironically, to write this piece, I read several brief articles on the topics of concentration,
technology, and creativity (so you know, I’m probably going to forget everything I read) to get an idea of what research has found. Nevertheless, this is a topic that does resonate with me and without any particular expertise, I have over time analysed my own habits and become more aware of their effects. For example, before starting university, I used to be able to read a hundred pages a day and now even twenty pages in one sitting can be a struggle sometimes; I also didn’t start using a phone until I started university. Having noticed things like that over time, I’ve tried to make small changes like reading every day, turning off notifications, compartmentalising my time, not simply resorting to my phone (for example on public transport or queueing), instead taking that spare time to be more reflective and to properly process knowledge and experiences.
We cannot deny the countless benefits of this abundance of information available to us through technology today, but clearly we should regulate our use in order to engage with it effectively. I recall a tutor once telling us that if there is a particular topic you’re interested in, don’t be afraid to pursue it, even at the expense of other topics. What I understood was that instead of constantly trying to know a bit about everything, you should recognise what really interests you and immerse yourself fully in it. Whilst the internet exposes us to so much and allows us to dip our toes into different interests, it’s important to be able to find the sweet spot between scanning these infinite resources and picking out our greatest sources of inspiration, which we want to pursue and
develop. Even on the internet, we can access first-rate resources: books, essays, documentaries, literally anything. We just have to be selective and committed to what we want to pursue. If we are mindful and attentive, we can make changes that can help us to have a more meaningful interaction with technology, improve our attention and refine our creative faculties.
[Anastasia Nevarez-Pyrkova – she/her]
[Photo credit: The Little Prince]