Writing Rituals: Building Up My Stamina, Breaking Up With My Smartphone

I have often read about writers who can spend all day in their writing rooms, working on their novels like a 9 to 5.  For me, I can never sit that long.  When I was writing my first novel, I could sit for four hours, maximum.  But now, as I work on my fourth, I found it difficult to keep my mind on my work for more than an hour at a stretch.  What the heck happened?  I’m no neuroscientist, but I think the internet happened.  Since the advent of facebook, twitter, and smart phones, my mind has started to work differently.  I had always been a multi-tasker, out of necessity, but in the last few years, it has become ridiculous, and ultimately destructive.  Once I found myself eating lunch, reading a book a book, and playing Words With Friends all at the same time.  I check email while I am talking on the phone. On a lunch date, I neaked glances at my phone while I friend was gone to the ladies. When I saw something awesome rather than study it, I thought: INSTAGRAM! Watching TV, I also solved Sudoku puzzles. To do so many things at once, I dipped into only the top layer of my experiences and constantly darting in and out. I was doing a lot of things, but I wasn’t doing any of them well.  I tried to get back to my old way of doing things but my attention span was shot and I was incapable of that deep thinking that creativity requires.  I knew I had to make a change.

If you have tried to reach me lately, you know what that change is.  I am friend-zoning my smart phone.  By that I mean, I still use it, but me and my iPhone are no longer in love.  I avoid taking it it with me when I go out.  If I am meeting a friend or going to a movie, that’s what I’m doing.  Email can wait until I get home.  When I see something awesome, I look at it and try and imprint it on my mind rather than distract myself thinking about what it will look like as a twit pic.  Just being without my phone for a few days, it was really clear how different life is without a tiny computer in my pocket.  Not being able to google everything makes me dig into my memory to remember song titles.  If I have forgotten the name or location of a restaurant, I have to roam the streets of NYC looking for it.  I feel like I am getting my main brain back.

And it is helping me get my writing mind back as well.  As you may remember, I used to blog all the time, but then I stopped and I believe this is because I was always on twitter, communicating 140 characters at a time.  It was fun, easy and more interactive than taking the time to construct a blog post.  But you see, I’m back here in blogland and I really think it’s because I have changed my relationship with my smartphone.

But on to the writing ritual part of the post.

To build my stamina back up, I use my faithful egg timer.  For the first week, I set the timer for 45 minutes.  For 45 minutes I sat at the desk and tried.  At first I was looking at it all the time and i couldn’t believe that only 15 minutes had passed.  Slowly, I increased the time. An hour, an hour and a half.  Now, I can sit and work for three hours, although I do get up and have a snack or two.

(And I don’t know that this counts as a ritual, it’s more of a habit, but I try not to look at any thing with internet connection until I have written for two hours.  I turn off the WiFi card on my computer before I go to bed.  I put my phone and iPad in airplane mode.  If I need an alarm, I use a regular clock.)

I know this may seem crazy because we are in such a connected moment in history.  But face it, writing a book is a crazy thing to do.  It’s not a part of everyday normal life.  Writers are outside of the fray.  We do things differently.

About TayariJones

Author of SILVER SPARROW, LEAVING ATLANTA, and THE UNTELLING.
This entry was posted in Writing, Writing Rituals and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply