There are days spent wallowing in the dried up soil of my creativity.
Whether it be for an email or blog post or curriculum or novel, suddenly the ideas I had are gone. Most importantly, the inspiration I had for encouragement and articulating the processes of artistic living disappear.
These are the days when I consider as I'm falling asleep: what happened? What did I get done? What did I actually digest? Did I even write anything?
And far too often, it's screen time. Conversations within Facebook pages. Scrolling through my twitter feed. Attempting to tackle my inbox and forgetting about that one thing I need to check off my list which means posting on this one page and then —
two hours later I'm still where I was at before, no email processed, no words written. I'm exhausted and unfocused and trying to figure out what I was needing to do in the first place.
We cannot live life as creatives without the intention of noticing what we're breathing in every single day.
Just this morning, I was reading a book on imagination and connections were firing off within me and I stopped — often — to jot down notes for future blog posts and 101 curriculum. But I was reading and breathing and refusing to check my phone for notifications.
Notifications has become my own person four-letter word.
Connection is important. All too often we can feel demoralized and alone and needing that swift, encouraging kick in the pants to remind us of what we're able to accomplish.
But too much connection? Too much connection feels like drinking from a fire hydrant. If you're not careful, you can drown in it.
In Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, society lives off connection. Written in 1953, there was no way for Bradbury to know the implications of his parlor walls (television screens that fill an entire wall of a house) and sea shells (essentially, in-ear headphones) and families living out their lives for all to see (reality tv).
In one scene, Montag moves through the subway with an ad forcing its way into his presence with staccato like precision. He tries to fight it — whispering quotes from the contraband book he holds in his hands — but it doesn't work.
Denham's Dentrifice echoes and demands attention and interrupts and Montag loses it, standing up and demanding the voice to SHUT-UP and gathering the attention of the fellow passengers, all of them tapping their feet to the rhythm of the ads and not even realizing what they are doing.
Bradbury continues —
The train door whistled open. Montag stood. The door gasped, started shut. Only then did he leap past the other passengers, screaming in his mind, plunge through the tunnels, ignoring the escalators, because he wanted to feel his feet move, arms swing, lungs clench, unclench, feel his throat go raw with air. A voice drifted after him, "Denham's Denham's Denham's," the train hissed like a snake. The train vanished in its hole (80).
I wonder what would happen with this manuscript you're trying to finish if you looked for connections in the world around you. You know what I mean: those tangible spaces — ripe with opportunity and touch. I wonder what would happen with your words if you allowed your hands to carry the pen instead of relying on the pounding of keys.
I get it. Putting up the laptop or wi-fi is a romantic ideal in today's assumptions of instant access. How do I approach this practice within my own writing?
- Anti-Social is a web-app that downloads on your computer and literally shuts down your social media websites + apps. I'll set this up in the morning and lock up Twitter, Facebook, and email for eight hours. It guarantees I won't be sidetracked by notifications and updates. Downside: there's still my phone.
- I remedy the phone issue by turning it off and keeping it in another room. SURPRISING, I KNOW, but those who need to get a hold of me will still be there after I finish writing.
- I've taken off the FB app on my phone to prevent me from checking the handful of pages I facilitate when I'm out and about with friends. This forces me to stay present and mindful of conversations, experiences, and setting — all things that influence my writing. I've been known to stop in the middle of a conversation and write down what someone just said because it will appear in a character's dialogue. If I'm distracted, I miss these opportunities.
- Also: just turn off the wi-fi on your computer. For me, this only works when I'm particularly driven since all it takes to get distracted again is a simple switch.
- Journal. A friend recently told me that in the wake of notoriety and more publicity, her blog has become an unsafe space for her to process her thoughts fully. So she journals — actually writes out her thoughts by hand — so can hear the voice inside rather than the barrage of voices she receives on a daily basis via social media. I love this because I can relate. The moment I stop journaling, I stop listening to my intuition.
Once I get quiet and turn off the other voices, the writing comes easier. Words start flowing and suddenly I'm able to hear what I'm supposed to write about next. Because sometimes? The silence doesn't come. Sometimes, it takes the habit of forcefully disconnecting yourself in order to know what words are waiting.
But first, I have to practice the quiet.
Creative energy has a source. Without it, we wither.
What are you plugged into today? How is this influencing your writing?
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