I used to be a writing machine.
I could churn out chapters, articles, you name it. But along the way, I lost that spark plug of motivation and inspiration. I stopped making lists and checking off boxes. I got a little too “flexible” with my office hours. I spent more time volunteering than writing books. And soon, I was plan-less, and losing my mojo. It’s not that I can’t write. If anything, I hoard ideas in notebooks and folders. I researched one year solid for a nonfiction project. Now that work lives in a binder on my desk. Maybe I have Writer’s Tetris, where one idea moves into place and then slides into another idea and soon “poof!” both ideas crash, explode, and evaporate.
Everyone always asks, “Where do you get your ideas?” I think perhaps a better question would be, “How do you make your ideas happen?” Because ideas are all around us: the newspaper, the people on the train, a rain-cloud exploding into a storm.
Yeah, a literal bolt of lightning.
So seeing and finding ideas isn’t really the issue. The challenge is doing something with those ideas. Making notes. Crafting an outline. Doodling on a piece of paper. Sitting down and churning out 10,000 words over a weekend. I’ve done all of the above.
Confession: I recently admitted to myself that perhaps the biggest thing getting between myself and my best ideas is about 5 inches tall and 3 inches wide (no, I didn’t actually use a ruler I am totally guessing). You guessed it: my smart phone. Like so many of us, I am addicted to social media of some kind. For me, Facebook has been the draw, although recently I’ve moved into Instagram, Twitter, and many other sites. I’m trying to be as savvy as possible, I tell myself, as I skip from one window to the next, one link after another.
But I know the truth about this confession. Social media can be fun and helpful. Sometimes as a writer, it’s the one place I feel connected in some way to the larger writing and publishing community. I’m emboldened by my friend’s successes and posts about family and travel and whatever else they’re doing. And the occasional bad cat video isn’t so awful, is it? I mean…cats. (Full disclosure: I am allergic and actually hate cats, but I’m clever enough to know cats are cool when they push things off counters. Too cool.)
But my phone is pretty awful. It’s taking away time, brain cells, attention span–all of it. No matter how good a post is or how many tweets rile my political ire or how often I click through one site to another in search of the best story or–forgive me–online quiz, that phone is taking me away from the world, from the hum of voices nearby, from the cool breeze blowing on the back of my neck, from the sound of rain on my roof. And what is it someone once said in some TV show, “A phone never loves you back.”
Let’s face it, my phone has shanghaied me from my manuscripts. I’ve let myself grow overwhelmed and distracted. I jokingly say, “I’m brain-dead” when I realize an hour has passed and I’m still punching on the phone keyboard. But that’s not actually funny. I’m not laughing! Where is that spaced-out me who has to live inside her head to craft the next story? I’ve always proudly said that I don’t understand boredom and I have never truly been bored. My imagination is always in gear. But truth is: online social media is B-O-R-I-N-G! It sucks all the life out of me.
And so, in light of all of the above points, I have a proposal for myself: CHANGE. As much as I love using the Internet, especially for work, I am trying to only do it during certain hours on certain days. I am (finally) setting an example for my youngest child who happens to be 12. He likes the fact that when I ask him to give up his electronics and phone–I do the same.
Time keeps on flying by and sometimes that phone gets in the way. But I’ll keep trying. I’ll keep flying.
I’ll get my wings working again.