I come to my computer to work. To relax. To communicate. To find inspiration.
I sit here, most days for far, far too long, in an uncomfortable chair to an incomplete dining room set. Two screens glow in front of me, a tidal wave of information playing out on 46″ of liquid crystal. I write. I read. I edit. I design. I check email. I check Facebook. I check Twitter. I comment. I respond. I click notifications. I read. I edit. I write. I design. I promote.
There has arguably never been a better time to be in a creative profession. There are more tools and opportunities available for promoting your work than at any time in history. That’s not an exaggeration. Push-button publishing. Turnkey platforms. The ability to build a massive audience through quality of work and smart promotions through social networks, all without spending a dime. Oh, it was probably easier to make a buck back in the day, when writers were scarce and the arts had wealthy patrons. It’s a meager existence now, unless you’re very, very good.
I’m only very good. That other very is an order of magnitude away. It’s the difference between scraping by and flourishing.
The worst thing about it all is the digital grind. The screens are like magnets, sucking you in. The constant flood of notifications pushing little Pavlovian levers in the brain that say “engagement” and “opportunity” and “validation” while flooding the reward centers with dopamine.
I come to my computer to work. I stay to lose myself in the distraction.
I’ve noticed, lately, that my ideas dry up within an hour or two of sitting here. If I get up and go for a walk or read a book or stand outside, my head clears. I start to think differently. I think better. If I exercise, I feel better. But I have to find the energy to do it. To walk away. It’s almost like the Internet sits there whispering to me: “Read one more thing. Watch one more video. Check one more email. You’ll find the answer you’re looking for…”
It’s a lie, of course. There are some answers in there, but what it does to your brain makes it hard for you to actually work with them. It’s like trying to sculpt with your hands tied. Instead, you need to be like some sleek and mysterious water fowl, soaring high above, diving in at strategic moments, pulling out the nourishment you need, never becoming completely immersed.
I’m bad at this. The water, the overwhelming ocean of glittering, shiny, useless things…it sucks me under. I need to remember to surface or else I’ll drown.
Why, when I know that for my creative process to really start humming do I do this to myself? Habit. Ease. Addiction. I am a peddler of words and images on the Information Superhighway. A merchant of the Matrix. This is my comfort zone. It’s where I feel most at home. I’ve been staring into screens connected to computers far away for over 20 years. This is my rabbit hole. It’s where I go. And even if I’m smart enough to take a break and do something real, I always have to come back to do something with it. To shape it. Craft it. Publish it. Share it. And then, while I’m there, the vortex sucks me back in.
Forcing myself into perspective is one of my urgent goals. Riding an analog wave out of the digital fog. Grabbing on to things that are real and holding on for dear life. Things that are tactile. Things that are alive. Things that don’t glow in the dark.
I love being a writer in 2015. It’s everything I could have hoped it would be. And so much worse.