So here I am trying to put my life and routine back together after Worldcon; 2 months of being sick with flu and bronchitis and asthma; and coming home from the intensity, focus, and emotional labor that marks Viable Paradise, which is an annual writers’ workshop on Martha's Vineyard that I serve on the faculty for.
I'm also trying to rebuild my focus and work habits after having them entirely derailed by the news cycle over the past month or so. This is requiring some persistence and technical assistance, as everything is kattywompus—from my daily practices of self care to the actual mechanics of getting the damned words on paper and also keeping in touch with you folks.
So I've been using some tricks to keep myself on task or at least to limit my fucking around on the Internet to specified hours.
I was talking with one of my oldest and dearest friends yesterday about the challenges of staying present and focused on creative work in a constantly dinging, attention seeking world. Her job also demands presence and attention, and she too has found that the expectation of constant availability and multitasking is really detrimental both to Peace of Mind and to Getting Things Done.
It reminded me of how back in the 80s during the first Gulf War, when the 24 hour news cycle first became a thing, we all had to learn ways to cope, unplug, and walk away from the constant repetitive churn of CNN. I think we're facing a similar challenge now… but with push notifications. We learned to navigate that, though, so I have some confidence we can learn to navigate this.
Some time ago I took Twitter and Facebook off my Phone. I can still navigate to the sites in a browser but recently I started using a blocker app to limit my access to my phone browser during my prime working hours. For a year or so, I have been using Cold Turkey on my laptop to block Chrome entirely for about 6 hours every day. This keeps me off Twitter and also keeps me from losing hours a day to email replies.
If something vital comes in, I can answer it on my phone or if it's complicated I can go deal with it on my desktop computer.
Blocking browser access on my phone until sometime in the afternoon means among other things that I don't lie in bed checking Twitter to see if the world is exploded when I wake up in the morning. I do subscribe to some newspapers, and I read those on my phone before I get out of bed, but those are not infinitely refreshing anxiety loops, so I don’t lose chunks of time aimlessly waiting for the internet to change.
I deal with my desire to know what’s going on in the world by leaving the newspaper apps live and their push notifications running. This assuages my anxiety because if something giant happens my phone will Ding.
I'm enough of a child of the 80s to want to know that the missiles are incoming so I have time to text my mom goodbye.
Recently I've also started using the “Forest” ap to keep myself from mucking about on my phone when I should be writing. It’s fun, and plays nice bird and rain sounds while it's running.
As a concession to the turning of the year I've moved my morning office to the den which is on the south side of the house and can get stuffy in summer time—and dark in the afternoons. My usual office is on the west side of the house, and is shaded and cool in the summer. This time of year, though, the den is full of pleasant morning light. Spending more time here working with ink and paper is frankly soothing.
I wonder if the current trend of people returning to notebooks and pens has something to do with that self-protective desire to unplug. I've always been a notebook girl. I'm so old I didn't own an electric typewriter until I was a junior in high school and my first computer was a 286 I bought used in college—also junior year—I think—the details blur. We still handed in papers and homework handwritten when I was in high school, in the Dark Ages.
Anyway I see bullet journaling (and so forth) as a valuable creative outlet and a way to spend a little time undistracted. It’s probably good for all of us, and for our creativity, to spend that time doing one thing, rather than trying to do six at once.
And on that note, back to it.