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Coping with Distractions: When My Creative Flow is Interrupted

Woman Facing Sunrise

The first time I took the Myers-Briggs personality test and discovered I was an INFJ {Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Judging} it liberated me from a lifetime of believing that something was fundamentally wrong with me. No longer ashamed of my eccentricities, I finally began to embrace them. As I gave myself permission to authentically express my inner world, my outer world began to shift. There was more room in my life for the kinds of people and experiences my heart craved and I wasted less time and energy forcing myself to take on relationships and situations that I dreaded. INFJ’s are said to be the most social of the introverts, and this does seem true in my case. Deep conversations with trusted friends inspire me. Laughing and joking around with people I love brings me joy. When I am spending time with the people I have chosen, I am generous with my presence, support, nurturing and love. And like all introverts, I need to recharge afterwards.

When I’m alone, there are nobody’s needs or expectations to monitor or manage. I am free to tune in and tune out as I wish, flowing back and forth between worlds.

I have crafted my life in such a way to provide me with ample time alone to write, paint and create—-all things that require me to dive deep and become immersed in inspiration. Dealing with distractions while I’m in my creative zone can be mildly annoying at best and downright maddening at worst. When something or someone interrupts me, I feel like I can’t be fully present with what has shown up in the moment because my energy is still heavily invested in what I was doing before. Re-focusing my attention requires me to shift gears from inner-world mode to social mode. And that shift takes time and effort to make, especially if I’m not prepared for it.

I have a few general practices to head off distractions:

I turn off ALL notification noises on my phone. Hearing a constant barrage of “bink,” “bonk,” “zoink,” and other noises is the quickest way to get me to the point of wanting to put my head through a wall. When I want to know what’s going on in the land of social media, I will go check it. I don’t need it invading my private space and time. I do this–rather than say, putting my phone in do not disturb mode–so I can keep the line open in case phone calls or text messages from family and friends come in.

I don’t answer calls from unknown numbers and even if I know who it is, I will usually let calls go to voicemail unless I’m expecting them at a certain time. This is one of those introvert things that I really relate to. I’ve heard from some of my friends that they know I’m not a phone person. The thing is, I do enjoy lengthy chats by phone, but I need to set an appointment for it so I can be mentally prepared and fully present. This means that I put all other things aside for that period of time and make that conversation my top priority.

I don’t like to answer the door when I’m home. I used to have a cutesy sign out front that said, “No solicitors, unless you happen to be selling drops of sunshine, clouds of stardust, or spoonfuls of whimsy.” What I was really trying to say was, “Hey, I’m not a total asshole or anything, I just don’t like to be disturbed, you know?” Unfortunately, this pleasant approach made it easy for people to disregard, usually because they figured it didn’t apply to them as they made their case for why what they were selling was “whimsical.” Yeah, I may have rolled my eyes at that. I’ve since replaced that sign with something more assertive and specific. So far, so good.

Gentle, but firm boundaries to protect sacred space

Unexpected visitors–even my closest friends and family—-can knock me out of my creative flow simply because being around people, any people, requires me to shift my focus and be present with them. Those in my inner circle know to call or send me a text and ask if it’s okay to stop by. Generally, I will make the effort to shift gears to receive a visit from my nearest and dearest, especially when they offer the courtesy of giving me notice.

Sometimes, the distractions come from my immediate family. Living with three young adults, this is inevitable, especially when they are home for summer vacation. For the most part, I’ve trained them to recognize when I’m working {the door is closed for a reason!} and to not disturb me unless it’s an emergency {someone better be bleeding!} but I also recognize that I can spend hours in my zone and not even realize how much time has flown by. It’s unrealistic to expect them to wait that long to talk to me about something that is important to them or ask a time sensitive question. So they open the door.

When I am interrupted, I have a few options for response, each with pros and cons:

  • Half listen to what someone is saying to me while keeping most of my energy invested in my project. Pros: I don’t get pulled out of my flow so it’s easy to dive right back in. Cons: I don’t actually hear what the person is saying. I can’t remember how I responded or what I agreed to. I feel a nagging sense of disappointment in myself for being dismissive to someone I love.

  • Stop what I’m working on and completely shift my attention to what the person is saying. Pros: I am able to listen and respond with full presence and take whatever steps are needed to ensure that I will be able to follow through with further action if necessary. Cons: I may lose my creative flow and need to take time and effort to re-connect with it. If this happens too often, I get frustrated and end up giving up on my creative project for the day, so this is not a recipe for long term creative success.

  • Take a few minutes to communicate—with full presence—that I am in my zone and that I would like to postpone the conversation until I come to a point where I can take a break. Pros: I’m able to stay in the flow and wrap up what I’m working on before shifting focus. The person I’m talking to gets my full attention. I can take any necessary action in the moment without feeling like my work is suffering. Cons: if the issue being brought up is time sensitive, this option won’t work. It requires forethought and follow-through, so that I will actually be available when I say I will be.

  • Recognize that there may be a good {albeit mysterious} reason for the distraction and embrace it. Sometimes, when an unexpected visitor shows up, they bring a message that is beneficial to the immediate project I’m working on and/or the big picture of which the immediate project is but one small piece. When this happens, I view my loved ones as channels for Spirit, asking me to slow down and pay attention to the magic of the moment.

My ideas incubate when I’m alone, tending quietly to my inner fire. Insights that are ready to be shared pour out of me when I’m immersed in my creative flow. But it is often during conversations with my most trusted friends and family that the major connections are made. And that’s because I only have certain pieces of the puzzle.

It takes coming together and sharing what we have each discovered on our own to see the bigger picture and realize how the whole relates to us individually.

This is why, as introverted as I am, I make time for connecting and sharing with the people I love. As frustrating as it can sometimes feel, I leave room in my life for a little distraction.

P.S. I’ve learned that if the cats are scratching at the door to be let in or out, you better get up immediately and do their bidding. They {not so secretly} rule, you know.

Blessings fellow travelers,


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1 Comment

CG Stonewick
CG Stonewick
Oct 28, 2023

INFP Physicist/Magician here. I love my family with all my heart. Your essay resonates on a deep level. It is relatively rare that I get make a deep dive into my creative zone. And yes, shifting that modulation is terribly frustrating and a little guilt inducing. And as you say, super difficult to get back into the zone. I'm pleased to know I am not alone in this. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

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