Every year, over six million people travel to experience Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa at the Louvre in Paris.
Six million people.
When I started reading about this piece of art, arguably the most famous in the world, I was struck by 2 things: 1) the length of time it took Da Vinci to complete it and 2) the length of time he kept it to himself after it was complete.
Da Vinci devoted four years of his life to the Mona Lisa, and kept her to himself for years after she was complete.
As a creative in today’s fast-paced, technology-driven culture, this irks me. I can’t imagine having the patience, discipline, and focus it would take to commit myself to one work for four years and not immediately show it to the world after I finished.
Why can’t I imagine doing what Da Vinci did?
Because I sat down to finish this blog about 30 minutes ago and I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve picked up my phone to check Facebook, Instagram, and my email. Like an itch that has to be scratched, our digital media consumption is distracting us from putting our hearts, minds, and hands to worthwhile investments.
In general, we are spending too much time consuming Instagram stories and other things that don’t last and not enough time creating things that will last.
In a recent report published by CNN, Jacqueline Howard quoted Douglas Gentile, professor of psychology at Iowa State University.
“The work week still takes up 40 of those hours, sleep at seven hours a night is 49, and if we assume all personal care – such as eating, bathing, dressing, preparing food — is three hours a day, then we have 58 hours a week left over for all other things,” Gentile said.
“This includes hobbies, sports, spending time with children, spending time with friends and romantic partners, reading, learning, exercise, participating in a faith community, volunteer work, house maintenance,” he added. “If people are spending over 50 hours a week with media for entertainment purposes, then there’s really no time left for any of the other things we value.”
At this point in the blog, you might be feeling a bit of shame or condemnation if you’re one of the millions of Americans who spend 50 hours+ consuming every week.
Shake off that feeling, take another glance at the Mona Lisa, and get inspired.
The purpose of this blog isn’t to make you feel shame or condemnation. This is not a call to delete your social media or cancel your Netflix account. This is a call to be aware of a lifestyle of consumption (TV, social, gaming, etc.), which studies show leads to loneliness and depression, that’s potentially robbing you of the joy of a lifestyle of creating (relationships, hobbies, art, etc.).
At the end of the day, only you can decide what habits are healthy for you, but here are a few questions I’m asking myself that may get you thinking:
- Is my avid consumption of content that has no lasting impact costing me my ability to create content (and/or art) that could have a lasting impact?
- What if my obsession with sharing bits and pieces of work before it’s finished is a distraction from the work itself?
- What if I’m being entertained to death and losing my creativity and grit in the process?
And I think about the Mona Lisa and how did he have time and would Da Vinci post glimpses of his art process on social if he were alive today? Would the Mona Lisa look different if Da Vinci invited his followers to share feedback mid-way through?
I am awestruck by this work of art and its artist and so many others who devoted their entire lives to things that men and women will marvel at for centuries.
I believe in the power of art and beauty and things worth traveling thousands of miles to experience. I also believe that our technology addictions and increasingly shortened attention spans are preventing us from creating such things.
And if you’re inspired at the end of this, I want to challenge you: spend an hour intentionally over the next week. Just one. Go for a walk without your phone. Draw. Write. Pick up your guitar. Sign up for music lessons, an art class, or a cooking class. Go to an art exhibit. Write an encouraging letter to a friend.
Life is beautiful, friends, and I don’t want us to miss out on creating things that will make it beautiful for others even long after we’re gone.
“Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.”
– Andy Warhol