Lately, as the days have shrunk further into darkness, and I feel even stronger the urge to settle deep into the comforters and down rather than getting up and moving around, ideas flicker in and out of my mind. Clever ideas. Interesting ideas. Ideas I used to write and percolate and develop and turn into something for publication. And yet I realized that I haven’t published anything in a really long time. I haven’t written anything in a really long time, at least nothing creative for myself. Oh, I’ve written work briefs and motions, but certainly nothing clever or interesting, and these lack even the slightest modicum of creativity. I used to write all the time. Little tidbits here and there would develop fully into ideas worth pursuing. I’ve been lamenting this, believing it is having a toddler and a 12 year old and a job and being a single mom and all that. But I did all this writing before while parenting and working and being a single mom. I didn’t have the baby while I was doing this, but I had a lot more dogs, so I probably broke even in the busy department. Really I can’t honestly blame these things. It’s something else. I had an inkling, but the idea never really germinated into a full fledged acceptance as to the reason for this creative apathy.
Then yesterday, a magazine I subscribe to arrived in the mail. I was sitting at our dining room table and the mail slid through the slot in the wall next to the table. Ah, reading material, I thought with a gleam in my eye. I’m something of a reading addict. I barely spend a moment without some grouping of words nearby to fill my brain. The New Yorker is my favorite. It comes frequently enough and with enough material to satisfy. This was another, Poets & Writers. I’ve only recently subscribed and this was my second issue. The first issue brought me a useful article, something I had been thinking about and needed confirmation about from another source. The second had something useful is well. Good subscription choice, I thought to myself.
The cover proclaimed all sorts of stories that dealt with this issue I’ve been facing of never writing much anymore, never developing these creative ideas that flit in and out of my brain like sparrows flying through the treetops but never landing. I immediately turned to the page with the article and read the author’s description of me. He isn’t a working single mother, but he is a working writer father and he has been for some time. It wasn’t this life that was sucking away his creative force, it was the internet, and the iPhone, and Facebook, and all these millions of distractions. He described how so many writers have to work on computers disconnected from all this connection to get any work done. Oh, ah ha! my brain cried. This is it.
I knew this. It was when I got the iPhone that my productivity slowed to a crawl. Since Facebook was added to the iPhone, my productivity has all but ceased. I used to write at least a blog post a day, sometimes even more. I haven’t done that in so long I can’t even remember. Now I have an idea, I might write it as a status update on Facebook, and then that’s all there is to it. On to the next thing. Nothing germinates. Nothing grows. Nothing becomes fully formed. And most of the time I don’t even bother getting to writing down the point because I open the Facebook and see an article, read the article, pass the article on, then read the next article, or the next status update of a friend, respond or share, then on. Then it’s 48 minutes later, I’ve done nothing of lasting creative effect, nothing that satisfies, and the time to do it is gone.
I have been feeling a strange, how do you say it? Dissatisfaction. Yes, that’s it. I’ve been feeling dissatisfaction with my iPone lately. Even before reading this article, I’ve been annoyed with the thing. The flat screen drives me to distraction. I’m constantly bumping it and doing something like calling a client who recently called me, and who I did not want to talk to. I rapidly hang up and hope my number didn’t show up on their screen. Or I’ll graze the glass with my wrist and bring up stock quotes. Who the fuck cares about stock quotes? Damn, that is one feature on an iPhone I’ll bet 99% of us could give a shit about. Seriously Jobs, most of us don’t care. I’ve been longing for buttons. I want to feel the satisfying click click under my fingertips as I dial or type something. And then there is the pain in my arm and wrist from typing on my iPhone. It hurts. All the time. My right arm has golf elbow from using the damn thing.
Ooh, I just realized I spent the last half hour writing instead of surfing Facebook. I might not have been writing anything clever or creative, but it wasn’t surfing uselessness, so that’s a start.
In any case, my iPhone has been giving me fits and I’ve toyed with the idea of getting rid of it and getting just a phone. The thought gives me a panic. It reminds me of going to Europe. The first couple of days when I could not access the data portion of my phone, I had these mini panics. It’s like some portion of my brain has come to depend on the instant gratification of looking and seeing that no one has called me. No one has emailed me. Oh yes. I got the same political emails I get every day. They are a let down. It’s like waiting for the phone to ring when you have a crush on someone, then discovering a salesperson on the other end of the line. All these things we’ve created for instant gratification when it comes to contact from our friends. Even in Facebook, the first thing I go to is the little red number in the top-right-hand corner of my iPhone to see what the notifications are. Was it someone actually writing to me? Oh no. Just someone liking a link. What a shame.
I’ve got to get off this train. I have to somehow disengage from this iPhone and internet dragging me away from my creative work. Even this morning, when I first sat down to do this, the WordPress page beckoned with its many new features. I wanted to surf away and figure out what they are. Distractions. Distractions all. Artists forever have had to deal with distractions, but never before, I think, have these distractions been so available and insistent. Even more discipline is required to keep them at bay. I can’t stop the job. I can’t push away my children. But I can work around them as needed–Like right now, Isabel awakened because of my fake sunlight lamp, crawled into my lap, and started nursing. I can type around that.
But I’m going to have to force myself to ignore the lure of the iPhone and the Facebook and the Internets. They will suck out my brain if I’m not careful. They already have, to some extent. I have these ideas percolating and dribbling and wanting expression. I’ve thought of so many ideas for my book I can’t even begin to count. TextEdit has several pages of notes where I’ve jotted something down, but then I haven’t gotten back into the habit of writing every night. I was doing it religiously before we went to Europe, and I was happy. Nothing else was different except I was writing regularly and this made me happy. Since we got back, school began, I had to catch up on work, the days shortened, we moved, and the iPhone and Facebook and the Internets began sucking at my brain and here I am, nothing further done on the book and desperate to write, and not very happy. I need that outlet for happyish to be a part of my life. I realized I’m out of practice. I used to actually practice writing, both here and in other journals. I haven’t done that. I have to rein in that discipline. Maybe it can be a New Year’s resolution I start now.
Anyway, I can’t think of any clever ending. Isabel is done nursing and it’s time to go to work. So I’m just going to stop. Hopefully I’ll write more again soon if the internets haven’t sucked out my brain.