Focus is not something that comes naturally to me and for many other artists as well. As someone who can master most things that are handmade its easy to get distracted. Writing a thesis was particularly excruciating, because I had so many interests and thought I could make them all somehow connect. It was truly exhausting Focus is important and here are some ways that I wish someone had spelled out to me to develop focus.
1- What is the topic you're exploring?
Can you tackle it in 1-2 sentences? Do your friends eyes glaze over as you explain what you’re doing? Can grandma understand what you’re saying? Chances are no one is getting it and neither are you. Ideas in our minds take time to articulate clearly in a verbal manner. Take the time to go through what exactly you’re exploring and researching. There’s no need for flowery language, in fact I would caution against flowery language because it usually shows that you don’t know what you’re talking about. However, its good to at some point to determine what exactly you’re looking for and articulate it in a concise manner. When you begin to get deeper into research you can always go back to the sentences and ask yourself if the research fits under the umbrella of your sentences. If it doesn’t promptly discard it. Which brings me to my next point.
2- Determine what’s important
I am no stranger to idea and research overwhelm. While its easy to see how may things can connect into your topic not everything will mesh well. Its like trying to find pieces in a puzzle, sometimes a piece seems like it may fit, but there’s a little bit of forcing going on. Pick things that flow well and that you can explain. Don’t try and cram too many things under the umbrella of your topic/issue/exploration. Keep it to 2-3 things max that all relate together in a smooth flowing fashion for both your audience to understand and for you to have less headaches in disseminating/articulating. ( I did not do this and in retrospect really regret that I didn’t tone down all the conceptual relationships as it made writing and expressing my ideas very difficult).
3- Keep something for later
As you’re in the midst of building research for a body of work and in the cycle of research/explore/discover that process actually sets you up for a lot of information and inspiration. While you may have narrowed down some topics that relate to your main idea or thesis new information has cropped up and diverting your attention. Make the decision to set it aside and keep it for later. All of these ideas flying at you are fun and exciting and while you may be like bee buzzing from one flower to the next, this is actually damaging to your practice and takes up a lot of your creative energy. Put it in a notebook/sketchbook, get it out of your head otherwise it will continue to take up space, and save it for later. I repeat, save it for later.
I hope this helps guide you into bringing some focus into your practice and writing. Think of your idea as a finely sharpened point thats been whittled down from a large piece of wood. If you discard something you can always recuperate it, but simpler tends to be better.
Oh hello, welcome to my blog, hacking a BFA. Is it an academic blog or is it just an art blog? I don't really know. Some of this might be relevant to art students only, some of it relevant to art amateurs......does it really matter? I invite you to treat this blog as an art buffet. If you want something more in depth...its here, something more geared to art newbies....it's here. Enjoy!
Melissa Cayford is an artist, designer and educator bent on making art and art education more accessible.