I have a problem. It works something like this: I’m in the middle of writing something – anything – and then I’m not. I’m reading emails. Or I’m reading news. Or I’m reading Yahoo! News, which is only sort of news. Or I’m reading the comments on Yahoo! News, which is, I think, owing to my Catholic upbringing. It’s the modern equivalent of a hairshirt, or self-flagellation. Only I’m not getting any closer to Stigmata. Nay – I am drifting into a state of such mind-numbing fury, I get ever closer to picking up a stick and hurling it at the person nearest me, never mind their innocence (look out, Chris).
And then I’m in no position to write.
Whatever creative impulses that might maybe have been floating in the recesses of my brain have drifted away. Whatever rhythm I’d built up has gone all wonky…I’m clapping on the 1 and 3 and everyone in my brain is glaring at me because we’re supposed to be clapping on the 2 and 4. Then I look at what I’ve written and I can’t even remember where exactly I was going with all of it. An unfinished work of mine is a horrible thing. I tend not to look back until it’s all said and done for that reason – once I’ve stopped midway and need to read back over what I’ve written, it all seems silly and contrived and really rather foolish.
It’s very embarassing. And I think I speak for many writers when I say that shame is a bit of a creativity kryptonite.
Whatever is one to do when technology begins ruining one’s life? Why, get more technology!
The first thing I tried was aptly named Self Control. I took it for two reasons. Firstly, it’s free. Secondly, it allows me to block just certain sites – email, for example – while still retaining access to the rest of the interweb. This is helpful when I’ve got something to write for which I’m still researching.
When I was first looking into getting it, I was reading through the comment thread under a review (I know, right?). Some jackass had written something along these incredibly paraphrased lines: “self control? ur all a bunch of loosers! you cant even keep urselves from checking ur emails? how pathetic! i hope you all die.” OK, he didn’t wish death upon us. And I’m not entirely sure I have any right to assume it was a male poster. S/He might have been named David…then again, s/he might have been named hexigon74. I have no recollection.
The point is that I guess there is something a little pathetic about it, but I know I’m not the only person suffering from the onslaught of information that has become our daily bread. I can’t be. Too many people are writing about it on sites like Work Awesome and Freelance Switch. Chris is reading a book about it now called Focus: A simplicity manifesto in The Age of Distraction. This is an epidemic.
Last week my Self Control stopped working (hehe). I could have just uninstalled it and reinstalled it – or, rather, gotten Chris to do it – but that jackass came back to mind and I thought, Come on, Ann! Seriously! You can’t even keep yourself from checking your emails? Alas, it wasn’t long before the gig was up. Evidently I couldn’t.
Some of the stuff I’m going to be working on this week will not require any access to the outside world. All it’s going to take is for me to…well, write. And so I’m going to try something new. Something writers have been raving about for ages. Freedom.
Oh, the irony. Freedom of information has led to the ball and chain of information overload…we have become so enslaved to the pull of potentially new information (It’s never new. In the words of the late Mr. Lennon, “There’s nothin’ you can sing that ain’t been sung.”) that we can’t find the time to do the things we need to do, let alone the things we want to do! When I finish my day spent in front of the computer for X number of hours, how many of those have been spent actually writing? And, given the time I dilly-dallied on Yahoo! News or some other such vortex of shameful regret and precious lost minutes of my life – given that time back, would I spend it in the same way? I offer you, dear reader, a resounding NO! No, I would not.
So perhaps I can get a bit of that time back. Freedom actually cuts us off completely (for a designated period) from that freest of information sources, in order to free up some of the time we lost to looking at pictures of cute cats or responding to bigoted commenters on a news source I have named here already 3 times too many.
Freedom shuts down the main frame, hushes the howling ghost in the machine, and, here’s hoping, helps me get a bit more work done.