Extract: To Be Creative is To Be Present
Mental Health For Millennials Vol. 7 was published this week by BookHub Publishing, and I was delighted to be asked to provide an essay for it again. Below is an extract from my piece, so I hope you enjoy!
Our world, as it feels to me, is designed to force us out of the present. We can focus on the future or the past well enough, but being in the present is entirely difficult. When I look at my own life this holds true. Schedules fill up and future dates are marked for oncoming commitments. When I’ve achieved things – book launches, marathons, publications – my mind isn’t focused on the present feeling of the achievement. It is looking to the next thing, the next goal, the next ambition. Phones are ever-present and take us away from what we’re doing in the moment. Conversations are half-heard as thumbs scroll haphazardly through reams of information that constantly seek our attention. Attention is now a commodity. Corporations makes millions from gleaning out attention away from us. It’s a constant battle we all face – the desire to be in the moment versus the forces trying to take us away from it.
Living in this way, upon reflection, feels surreal. Literally unreal. Too much time spent away from the present begins to make life feel artificial and half-lit. My brain is constantly thinking of anything aside from what’s in front of me, in the present. Constantly turning over to-do lists and schedules and places I need to be in the next few weeks. Spending time watching how other people live rather than living myself. None of which has any influence on the present. I could be in the present, but I’m hyper-focused on the future. And I’m not the only one. In fact, the majority are in this boat with me. Rather than appreciating the now, we’re anticipating the hypothetical better tomorrow. We’re always one minute, one hour, one moth ahead of ourselves. We’re living life looking backwards or forwards, but rarely are we living it live, as it happens.
It is a conundrum. The creative is supposed to draw the world into the present, but the world the creative lives in drags them out of it. And while this may have detrimental effects on the creative’s craft, I think it has far weightier outcomes for a person’s wellbeing.
It is rare, but when I am totally present, experiencing the now, being mindful, being attentive, this is when I am happy. This may even be the definition of happiness. Because when we are present, we can’t worry about what may happen, or what could happen. it cuts out any threatening anxieties. Being present also means that I am unlikely to focus on painful memories from the past, or on mistakes I’ve made, or on regretful behaviour. Which means that the likelihood for me to fall into low mood or self-contempt is also quite low. When we live in the moment, the rest of our lives cannot affect us. The past cannot haunt, and the future cannot loom over.
I also write a Substack