I missed the prompt on Wednesday, because of work, but day off so I’m going to try to write about ‘Focus’.
I have a habit, I suppose it could be called, of finding something that fascinates me and then focusing on that ‘thing’ solely for however long it can continue to hold my attention. Other people say I just go through phases, obsessive periods. I’m not the only person in this family who gets obsessed, but it’s possible I’m the only one who’s tried to work out the cause. Introvertion has its advantages that way. An introvert nature is probably also the ’cause’.
I’m so focused on absorbing as much information as possible, trying to get to the whys and wherefores that I don’t notice anything else. I just want answers. While this focus has many advantages in my creative, curiosity driven life it causes problems with the outside world, more precisely at work.
Say I’m bored by the project in hand (there’s only so many pies a person can dismember before going crazy) I won’t be focused on it. My focus will be elsewhere, on something I actually find interesting and I’m probably just doing enough to satisfy the basic requirements.
When I’m focused on something, anything to facilitate the amount of time I can spend on that focus ecomes a ‘sub-focus’. While I have to work, for example, my hours are based on how long it’ll take me to finish a set of daily tasks and anything else the management need me to do. Therefore, it’s taking up writing time. So I focus intently on the tasks and work my way through them as quickly as possible. Except, because I’m so focused on them I can’t allow myself shortcuts to get finished more quickly. That just stores up extra work for another day. So I bring my intensity to the job, get the work done thoroughly, and usually get home in less than five hours.
Annoys the hell out of other people though; limited computer access in the department means that if I get into something, like updating a spreadsheet so it’s complete rather than just entering my data, I can take up a computer for an hour rather than ten minutes. An hour when other people want the computer because it has a decent chair.
I’ve been accused of selective deafness as well, or conversely, earwigging. I’m really not ignoring you, or listening in to your conversation. I’m busy getting on with my job, all my faculties are focused on the task in hand. A person who thinks I’m ignorant or listening in is assuming I’d be able to separate a part of my faculties to concentrate elsewhere. I can’t. I have a focus, anything not concerned with that doesn’t make it into my conciousness. Try explaining that to people without them deciding that you’re just being stuck up, or lying.
People also assume that if I’m getting the jobs done quickly I can’t be doing them properly. Err, you mean you couldn’t get the same work done with the same thoroughness in the same amount of time. I think that’s because you don’t focus and spend half the time chatting to all and sundry. I’d rather just get on with it, so I can go home and avoid small talk. In addition, I’m busy, and if you interrupt me when I’m working I get really unsettled. Unsettled Rosie is not a happy bunny. I snarl and growl. It’s not pretty and adds to the impression that I’m mardy and snobbish.
My tendency towards intense focus has one advantage. When I’m concentrating on a project, creative, personal or work related, I will get it done, very thoroughly. I’m so distracted by what I’m doing there isn’t room for anything else to prevent me from finishing.
In addition, my curiosity, which usually is the driver for anything I focus on, has enabled me to gather up a random collection of information. I don’t do small talk but start a conversation and I usually have something to add.
The challenge of being introverted for me at least, is to balance the intense focus, the need to follow the trail, to finish what I start, the curiosity that drives that focus, that satisfies the intellect and insulates me from the overwhelming stimuli around me, with the cultural expectation of small talk and chattyness, of ‘normal’ human interaction. I should according to ‘normal’ people be interested in the emptyness of pop culture. I’m not, unless it’s an aspect of something that I’m focused on. For instance, I have no interest in watching talent shows. I like music, but I can’t stand manufactured pop. Other than as a cultural phenomenon, what interest has ‘X Factor’ or ‘Britain’s got talent’ for me? I can’t join discussions about the current or past contestants but if you’re willing to get into a deeper conversation about celebrity culture and the desire to be ‘famous’ as a part of current cultural phenomena, or music’s place in society, I can join in. At some point I’ve probably got obsessed by something vaguely related and followed the links. Obsessed is the wrong word though, it’s more a focused search for information.
How can intense focus driven by passion and curiosity be differentiated from obsession? For myself I find the difference is most obvious in my depression.
Losing my focus, my drive and curiosity was one of the worst symptoms of depression. It was a part of the blank feeling I struggle with. There was nothing there inside, just an emptying vessel. Making myself write has helped bring back my curiosity, and with it my ability to focus.
Obsession has, in the past, filled the void where curiosity and focus used to be. It was unhealthy, emotionally, physically and financially. Before the current depression (23 month and counting, 14 months in recovery), in my previous depressive episode (2010) I actually got some counseling. I identified my obsessive behaviour for what it is and this time round I’m channeling the energy into reigniting my creativity instead of buying magazines or investing energy in a destructive attitude to food.
It has worked; my focus has returned, I’m writing as much as ever, building for a future that I want.
So to summarise, for me ‘focus’ is one of the advantages of the introvert. It, driven by curiosity and creativity, enables me to search for information and knowledge, work quickly and thoroughly, and also helps me stand back from the world to observe and process, as well as helping in the treatment of my mental health issues. These advantages outweigh the disadvantage of other people’s assumptions and there actions based on those assumptions.