Sunday, October 21, 2012

How Disconnecting Will Help You Reconnect

I recently joined Twitter. I held off for months because I didn't see the point in adding yet another social media site to my already big repertoire. I still am not sure I like it, but I'll keep my account and hang on for another few days. What I enjoy the most is being able to see what celebrities have to say and even conversing with them (if you're lucky).

However, Saturday night I had a slight meltdown in terms of my Internet time. In between housekeeping, laundry, and baking some scrumptious chocolate pumpkin cupcakes, I spent a good chunk of the day on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter, not to mention looking at blogs, news sites, and other non-essential viewing items. I managed to get some writing done, but not nearly enough.

Not good, especially when the weekends are my prime writing time.

So at the end of the day, I decided to watch Midnight in Paris again. It's a film by Woody Allen and is really a tribute to Paris and to nostalgia itself. A writer, played by Owen Wilson, is given a tremendous gift: at midnight every night, he gets to go back to Paris in the 1920s. He meets F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Picasso, and a host of others. He has always believed that Paris in the '20s was a Golden Age, and that he would have much rather lived then as opposed to his present time. However, he meets a woman living in the 1920s who believes Paris in the 1890s is the Golden Age. It's fun to see how their views of their own "present" shape who they are.

I won't give away the ending of the film (which I highly recommend, BTW), but suffice to say that it speaks to me on a number of levels. Besides the nostalgia part (which I will undoubtedly discuss in a future blog post), it was the commitment to the artistic life that really made me think. Paris was a Golden Era during the 1920s for art and literature, a response to the horror of World War I. But what I love was these artists' commitment to making great art. Sure, they partied and drank and probably smoked far too much, but creativity was at the heart of their lives.

(I'm mindful, however, that most of these great artists in this narrow window of time did not have a family or a mortgage or bills to worry about like most of us do. They were probably content to live in the moment for the most part, yet another response to WW1.)

But if we were to put these people in the year 2012, what do you think they would do? Would Hemingway be on Twitter? Would F. Scott Fitzgerald have a Pinterest board of likely locations for Gatsby's house? Would Picasso have a Facebook page? ( I bet Gertrude Stein would have a stellar blog...)

It's interesting to think about.


I am conscious of the fact that today's world is far different than it was from Paris in the 1920s. As writers and artists, we have a terrific ability to connect with other artists - and our audience. However, I honestly believe that we can destroy our creative life by spending too much time on the computer or iPad or iPhone or whatever electronic device connects us to the world.

Is that too harsh? Destroy is an awfully serious word. But in this case, I can't think of a better one to use.

I have personally experienced a change in my ability to focus. It's so easy to click from one site to the next, taking in information at a quick glance before moving on. This translates over to my "real" life. I find that, unless it's a really good book, I can't sit and read for hours on end. I get restless and want to go do something else. It's the same with my writing. I have never been able to sit and write for hours at a time - I usually get up and move around quite a bit. But lately, I've been getting on the Internet when I need a break. And what does that lead to? More and more distraction, which breaks the focus I have on my story.

What is the solution? In this day and age, it's hard to get completely away without any form of social media - especially if you're an aspiring author who wants to be published some day.

As in so many other things in life, I find that it all comes down to one concept: balance.

So here's my goal. Since I am on the computer all day at work, when I come home at night, I am allowed ten minutes to check my email and my social networks once - and only once - before bedtime. Otherwise, the Internet stays off. I am to use that time to write, read, craft, spend time with my daughter and my husband, listen to music, journal, whatever.

On the weekends, the schedule will be slightly different. I will give myself an hour or so in the mornings to catch up with what's going on in the world, etc., but after that, no more Internet until the evening, and even then, it must be limited.

There is far too much to see and do in this world without being glued to the darn computer for hours on end. Why I keep having to remind myself of this is baffling, but I think our world makes it so hard not to stay connected 24-7 that we must make a conscious decision to disconnect.

I have a feeling that by disconnecting, our lives will be richer and more fulfilling. And that, my dear readers, will translate to a deeper, richer, and more fulfilling creative life. This new sensibility will show up in our writing, our drawing, our painting, our gardening, our baking, our songwriting - in whatever creative endeavor we choose to pursue.

Here's to disconnecting so that we can reconnect with our creativity!





20 comments:

  1. I agree with you. I spend way too much time on time wasting activities and I just said that to myself last week, I need to be more productive and I think, like with eating, everything in moderation.

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    1. Yep - moderation and balance is the key. It's so hard to do sometimes, though. That's why I think we need to allow ourselves to indulge once in awhile. =D

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  2. I enjoyed your post, Melissa. Hmm, it is thought-provoking to consider whether the great writers and artists of yesteryear would be spending their time Tweeting, pinning, Facebooking, etc. I know as writers that we have to spend a good amount of time on social media, but how much time do we have left to actually write? You bring up some good points and suggestions.

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    1. I think the Internet is a writer's worst enemy and best friend!

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  3. I so agree with the observations in your post, Melissa. I know I spend too much time on social media (even without a Twitter account).

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    1. As an introvert, social media is a God-send, but I can also get overwhelmed, too!

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  4. I totally agree with you!
    I really wonder if authors in the past would have written as much or as well with the intrusion of the internet in their lives. Something which we will never know!
    I have been mulling over this same dilemma for the last few months. Writing and reading blogs, FB, Twitter, Pinterest etc etc take up huge chunks of my writing time. There are days where I wish I could turn my back on it all. But to be honest, I find the whole thing quite addictive, and it is great to meet new people.
    But it leads me to ask: Can a writer be successful without a web presence?
    Thanks for airing this topic, Melissa. I hope the 'rules' you have given yourself work well and that your creative output increases.

    And I'm going to check out that movie, it sounds wonderful!

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    1. J.T., you'll love that movie! It's so much fun.

      I've had that feeling, too - wanting to turn my back on it all and become a hermit. But I think I would miss it too much. =D

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  5. I quite agree, Melissa - life is all about balance isn't it? I have a Twitter account but it seems to takeup so much time and as I have a bad back I can't sit for too long so work must come first. That's good in a way as it means I'm not tempted to surf too much. But I can't quite get the hang of Twitter....

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    1. Twitter is sort of overwhelming for me at the moment - some people tweet SO MUCH that it crowds my newsfeed. I'm not sure this is the medium for me...

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  6. I heartily concur. And no, I don't think destroy is too harsh. I don't FB or Twitter, and I limit what blogs I read, as there are so many, but time is limited. I want to focus on my writing; that's what really matters.

    If that sounds harsh, well, so be it. You make many great points; what's the use of all this social pandering if there's nothing to share? Switching to Wordpress has been interesting; it's far more social than Blogger, which I did not expect. I'm posting about the same amount as before, receiving more feedback, which is nice, but...

    I don't want a blog to overtake the writing. Maybe great writers of the past used their social gatherings as FB and blogs and Twitter are now. But there's a big difference in connecting face to face. Yeah, they probably did smoke and drink too much, but they engaged with other writers in the meantime.

    I have a soft spot for Woody Allen flicks; will have to check out this one. Have you seen Radio Days? One of my faves! Zelig is great too, among others.

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    1. I agree - that the writing is what really matters. I sometimes wonder if it gets neglected in favor of all the social media stuff an author is expected to do in this day and age.

      Yes, I have seen "Radio Days" and loved it! I am sure you'll love "Midnight in Paris", as well!

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  7. I agree heartily about the movie Midnight in Paris. Such a gem! I especially loved the Hemingway character. Hilarious spoof of every Hemingway cliche. You can watch it on youtube (yet another Internet time-sink!). Here's the link: http://youtu.be/TpLEKjPud_k

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    1. Yep, it's one that I need to add to my DVD collection!

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  8. Melissa, I agree with everything you've said here, as well as what others have said too. I don't want to look back on my life years from now and be riddled with regret that I spent hours surfing the net. It's just not what I want.

    Great post. It's really making me take a hard look at the way I spend my time:) I think your decision is terrific!!

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    1. I am finding that there are days when I just don't have the self-control or desire to stop myself from mindlessly surfing. If I'm feeling bad physically, I tend to do more clicking around. I really think our brains get trained to have a short attention span when we have so many things to look at.

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  9. Agree, agree, agree!!!! I love blogging and connecting with my writer friends (because I don't have but ONE writer friend in "real life") but the internet has drastically changed my ability to concentrate and I've had to really cut back too.

    Thanks for sharing those insights on the Golden Era too - it is kind of funny to think of Hemingway on Twitter. I am on Twitter but rarely use it because it is too "shallow" for me. I love blogs where we can dig into our thoughts and share long comments. 140 characters is just another symptom of how our society is ever narrowing down to shorter soundbites of attention.

    On a side note, I was at a party this weekend where 3/4 of the time the people I was socializing with were interacting with other people on their smartphones. It made me feel uninteresting, and as a result, resentful. Sorry, just needed to rant about that side of social media, too.

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    1. Oh, I totally understand, Margo, about the smart phone thing. You go into a restaurant and it's the same thing - people are interacting on their phones instead of with each other. It's really sad.

      Not sure I like Twitter yet...though it is helpful for celebrity stalking. =D

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  10. Sometimes I really envy the artists of old because it really was all about the art. They didn't have to blog or facebook or twitter and while all of these things have helped open up an artist's avenue to new patrons, it also feels like one can get so easily lost. I'll have to watch that movie. I've never seen it.

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    1. I so agree with you! It WAS about the art. I also think that's why the prose was so much more dense. People actually took the time to read and savor the words. Now we're used to sound bytes and 140 characters and "liking" things on FB. LOL

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