My iPhone, My Selfie

My iPhone is killing my creativity. I don’t want to make excuses for myself here. I’ve been in a bit of a dry spell with writing. A several years dry spell…I’ve written stories and shared ideas, but I used to write all the time. Scribbling lines and random thoughts in my notebook and calendar. Without really noticing, that tendency has slipped away. Many stories that I’ve shared on this blog have come to me in one glorious flourish that I could not ignore, my mind so consumed by getting the words out. I used to be in the practice of writing down the silliest, most ignorant, least polished ideas in my mind. I used to carry pen and paper around with me everywhere. Before technology, I didn’t have as sophisticated a way to share my thoughts, but I was swimming in my creative stream. And I loved it. So what's changed?

Four years ago, I got a smart phone. I hesitated for a while as I noticed people walking from place to place with overactive thumbs scrolling through screens. I didn’t want to fall into this trap. But the world caught up with me, and I couldn’t resist. My first iPhone was FREE! It started slow at first, the adjustment to being “always available” and thinking a question and not having to write it down to look it up later instead having instant access to all the answers. I still make it a point not to walk and scroll and drive a text, that shit is dangerous. And yet, there’s rarely a Whole Foods checkout line where I don’t involuntarily reach for my phone only to notice I’m using it after I’ve seen 7 pictures of your kids on their first day of school. There are days, weeks, months where I don’t write anything, I don’t have time to write. Only to realize shamefully the number of hours I’ve spent scrolling through news headlines, twitter feeds, pictures of the Kardashians, and all those recipes I’ve pinned and never cooked. Even though I keep my phone on silent, I telepathically know when I’ve received a text message and respond pretty immediately. Because hey, I’m not “doing anything.” So I respond to text, and while I’m at it check my e-mail, and then wonder about the weather, and then see your handstand beach picture, and pin a pretty picture of a door for my imaginary house, and suddenly an hour has passed. How did that happen?

This brain is occupied. I love podcasts and Audible, and spend much of my commuting time or running trail listening to interesting news and stories. That morning bathroom time, I’m checking my email for the first time and scrolling through Instagram. I don’t give my brain a lot of down time, essential opportunities to stretch, wander, and roam. Even when I’m still and silent, I’m “meditating.” I’m practicing being non-reactive. So if a great idea pops into my brain, or even one with a lot of loose ends, I don’t follow it. I’m supposed to be meditating! 

Lots of thoughts come at bedtime. I remind myself to settle down, not write it down. I have to get to sleep! Daydreaming has been deemed superfluous. There so much else to do rather do not.

I won’t take my phone on a hike. Ok, maybe just to snap a few idealic pics. Because if I climb a mountain and nobody sees it on their internet screen, did it actually ever happen?

And then there’s the insta-yoga…

We’ve learned to pose for the length of a shutter click on our dominant side. Have we become a slave to the image of what we think people want from us? 

What if what people really want is unpolished raw authenticity?

Eh, probably not…

Don’t get me wrong, I love technology. Hello, rainy day binge watching Netflix? Awesome. Having access to my favorite writers and teachers? Awesome. I love staying connected to people I love spread all over the globe and peering into the lives of people I’ve never even met. It’s cool to be able to network and share my schedule and stories with people. I have a professionally designed website from Squarespace with no real knowledge of C++. That’s amazing.

I always tell myself, well I’m not that bad. I’m not constantly checking my phone. I can interact with the real world. I don’t have a problem. But the fact is I DO. I’m addicted to being occupied. Somewhere in the last four years of my smart phone life, I’ve sacrificed efficiency for depth. I’ve misunderstood the value of doing nothing. That time on the toilet…it’s where ideas flow. That time in line, it’s where we observe the human experience. 

This is not a lecture. Don’t give up your phone. Do whatever the hell you want. Your phone is a magic box! It is incredible what we have available at our fingers. I’m just hoping to have my phone work better for me, and get back in touch with being bored. 

Can I allow myself to…

Be uncomfortable. 

Participate in an awkward silence.

Share a glance, that turns to a smile, that turns into coffee.

Can I take off my armor? 

Sit and have lunch alone. Instead of looking busy, make myself vulnerable and available. 

To resist distraction from but rather slip into the stream of the beautifully mundane. 

Yesterday, instead of checking my email, I participated in a conversation with my teenage checkout boys who were talking about Dragonball-Z. I don’t know what the hell that is, but we smiled and laughed at our generation gap. And it was cool. Not earth shattering, not life changing, just simple connection. 

The simple things in life, might just lead to your next masterpiece.

If you get lost in your thoughts, instead of your social media feed, what might you find there?

I commit to daydreaming. 

To unravel the thread of thought to see where it leads. 

To discover the magic within me and around me. 

It may be disguised as ordinary. It may sneak up on me waiting for coffee. 

I’m making myself available. 

Image credit: the internet