Focus on the making, not the minutiae.
Recently, I was looking for a quote that captured how I’ve been feeling over the past month or so since making some pretty big behind the scenes professional changes. There are a couple sites I typically visit for quotes—namely Brainy Quote and Good Reads—but nothing I was seeing was exactly right. Then, something popped up in one of my feeds—I think it was on Instagram.
“I’m starting over. A new pattern of thoughts. A new wave of emotions. A new connection to the world. A new belief system in myself.”
While I’m not “starting over” as much as I’m changing focus, the rest of it is pretty close.
After receiving an email from my web host informing me that they would be closing down and I was to remove my files and secure hosting elsewhere “ASAP” (no closure date was given), I went into a bit of a panic. I’ve designed and built my own websites for years, but I don’t keep a running list of well-reviewed web hosts at the ready. As I started to go through the mental checklist of the steps I would need to take—research hosts, backup data, settings, theme customizations, etc.— in order to migrate to a new host as quickly as possible, I had an epiphany. What if I just didn’t? What if I used my situation as a chance to rethink what I want my online presence to be. Let’s be honest, the personal website hasn’t been a destination for years—replaced instead by a litany of social media platforms. Like it or not, that’s where people are, so as much I liked the Wordpress site that I’d spent years tweaking and customizing, perhaps its time had passed.
Several months back I found a platform called Carrd, which allows you to create a super-clean and responsive one-page website. There are a ton of themes and the feature set is terrific, so I built a signup page for my newsletter and a landing page for a new project I was working on. Until the recent situation with my web host, I’d never really considered using a single page as my entire website. But the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. Competition for eyeballs is fierce—many studies suggest that you have only seconds to capture the attention of a visitor before they click away to the next thing. With a finite number of hours and a seemingly infinite supply of content, the halcyon days of deep-diving a website, reading blog posts, and looking at galleries of images have been replaced by flipping through feeds on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok (each of which has specific content tailored to shorter attention spans). With a quick scroll down my single-page site—which was built in a matter of hours—visitors get an overview of who I am, what I do, even why I do it. There are a handful of curated images, featured projects, and links to my podcast and my newsletter. If visitors want to follow me on social media, or connect directly with me for something more substantial, those links are there too. This iteration of my site not only meets people where they are, but how they consume and I couldn’t be happier with it.
One of the biggest byproducts to come out of making the switch to a simpler, single-page site has been a renewed focus on actually making work. By removing the ability to lose hours (or days) tweaking and tinkering my former Wordpress-based site (not to mention worrying about whether the next plugin update would somehow brick the site), I’m able to be more productive and channel more intellectual and creative energy elsewhere—for example, finishing the writing and launching the second edition of my book, Photography by the Letter, starting a series of 12 new paintings, and sketching out the initial layouts for a new zine.
I’m all for creative obstacles that can help take the work we do into different and unexpected directions—in fact, I can make a pretty strong case that they are necessary—but replacing making with getting lost in administrative minutiae is simply unproductive distraction. By turning a mild panic attack into an opportunity for reflection, I was able to come up with a solution in which I lost nothing in terms of online presence, but I gained time and a renewed sense of clarity and confidence about where to go next, both in my professional and personal work. I think a big part of all of this is
Are there recurring distractions—creative or otherwise—that you can easily resolve or take out of your path that might give you more time or better focus?
Remove distracting apps from your phone.
Schedule time for ideation or creative thinking.
Consider whether you can establish a new habit or pattern to take a regular/daily but unimportant decision off your plate.
There’s a terrific book by Rob Hatch, called Attention! The Power of Simple Decisions in a Distracted World, that may help you sort some of it out.