Blogtalk: Balancing Creativity and the Digital Life

by Amber Lea Starfire on August 5, 2011

We writers have a tendency to grouse about how difficult it is to stay focused. We distract ourselves with email, FaceBook, Twitter, and phone texts — all in the name of “social networking” — and then we complain about it. Ben Brooks posted a thoughtful article about the importance of taking responsibility for our Digital Interruptions.

But then, Nathan Bransford reminded me that some distractions are necessary, even healthy — the kind that come in the form of real, face-to-face time with friends, walks in the park, time at a museum or bookstore, or just staring at the clouds. These kinds of distractions rejuvenate, rather than deplete our creative energies.

How long has it been since you had a “digital free” day — a day without computers, phones (land or cell), and text messages? How long has it been since you felt your hand twitch toward your phone out of habit, just to check your email? What would happen if you turned everything off for one day? And then, what would happen if you went for a walk or to the beach for the day?

I’ve done it. Not often, because I write on a computer and teach classes over the Internet, and electronic communication is my bread and butter and breath. But I can tell you that it’s an incredibly freeing experience to not be on call for an afternoon or a day, to simply have time to be me in my environment. And I’ve re-discovered these really handy tools called notebooks and pens, which work without batteries! So I can keep writing, even without electricity. Pretty cool.

How about you? When was the last time you were digital free?

Tell us about it …

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Image Credit: Seriykotik
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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Roia August 6, 2011 at 2:44 pm

Wow, this is a very timely post. Thank you! I’ve been feeling rather aggravated with myself for getting zero writing done of late, and I’m awfully aware of the amount of time I waste on the computer. I did go for a short vacation with a friend, and neither one of us had a computer with us (although I did sneak a quick peak at my iPad briefly). It was a relief.

All of my journaling is done with pen and paper, and, quite honestly, most of the time I get started doing any kind of writing and thinking about presentations with pen and paper.

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Amber Lea Starfire August 10, 2011 at 1:17 pm

Roia, thanks for your comment. One thing that might help is to schedule a regular time each day to write. Set an alarm. And when that alarm goes off, no matter what else you’re doing, grab your pen and paper and go to a different room than where you computer is located. Then write. You will be amazed :-)

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Marie E. LaConte September 1, 2011 at 7:57 pm

I can’t imagine why I’d ever go “digitally-free” voluntarily. I find no competition between creativity and computers. The last time I wrote with a pen on paper was in 1989 and I hope I never have to do so again.

However, I understand the difference between writing on the keyboard and writing with a pen. This difference is qualitative as well as quantitative.

Writing on the computer goes quickly, and one is tempted to use stream-of consciousness more than necessary. Verbosity abounds. Writing with a pen forces one to consider each word carefully, and therefore can be a powerful teaching tool .

It can also work better for writing from the soul, when one’s purpose for writing is to dip into the well of one’s life and see what’s down there.

An experienced writer, however, will able to use whatever means is at hand to write what she needs to write.

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Amber Lea Starfire September 2, 2011 at 8:55 am

Marie, the post was intended as a discussion about connectedness via the Internet, and our “addictions” to checking email, social networking, and so on — rather than as a comparison of writing on computer to writing by hand — though I did mention that at the end. I find it necessary, once in a while, to unplug and get out into nature as a way of refreshing and renewing myself. It gives me perspective, as well. But that may just be me :-)

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SQ September 19, 2011 at 5:39 am

Hi Amber, I often write with a pen on a blank notebook, letters the same way. The digital typing induces the Ms Perfect in me to immediately correct the typo, re-read words to change the tune/grammar/structure; on top of the incessant checking of email/facebook etc etc, Not surprisingly, effectively disrupting my thoughts and stalling creativity, let alone allow one to ‘dip into one soul’. Well, hopefully one day I will get better with the digital mode. Thanks for Writing through Life. Beautiful. SQ

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Amber Lea Starfire September 19, 2011 at 9:50 am

Thanks, SQ. I’m curious … do you stay connected digitally in other ways, via phone, iPad, Facebook, etc.? Or do you spend minimum time on the Internet? Where does the balance lie for you?

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