I have a book-sized, faux-leather-bound journal that I write in while sitting in the easy chair four feet away from the computer screen. I write in it with a quaint little device called a pen.
Our computers and smartphones are the most amazing tools that have emerged in my lifetime, but I think there’s a downside to staying plugged into them constantly.
Around the time that I launched into what became my novel The Imaginary Revolution, I began taking regular time to sit with the book full of blank pages, using it to think and create without electronic assistance. Some of my better ideas, essays and stories have flowed from the pen and into the paper journal before being translated into electronic bits and bytes.
One of my favorite creators, Christian singer-songwriter Sara Groves, addressed the need to unplug in an interview about her album Invisible Empires, and specifically the song “Obsolete,” where she writes in part, “Are you and I an apparition/Flickering up on the screen/Sending out our best transmissions/Waiting in our velveteen?/Tell me you can really see me.”
“I was trying to process my own feelings about technology – which stresses me out. It makes me feel like I’m not doing enough. In a way you’re aware of what everyone is doing on their best day. Everyone is putting themselves out there, everyone is advertising, everyone is Madison Avenue for themselves. I have a hard time with that. I have a hard time doing it for myself – Troy [her husband and business partner] does it for me.
“I’m not on Facebook. When it came out I felt a divine message – I very clearly felt the Lord say, ‘You’re not going to get to do that. Right off the bat I’ll set you free.’ Part of me wants to do it, but there’s a bigger part that feels relieved.
“‘Obsolete’ is a reflection on ‘what are we doing?’ Not to say that the Internet is of the devil, but I hear people say things like ‘I couldn’t live without my phone or the Internet.’ I don’t want to demonize everything, but I do believe that we worship the things that we made with our own hands … Eugene Peterson talks about doing slower things, which are actually the way that your brain is made. I’ve been reading articles about the rapid-fire influx of information – that just the ding on your phone tells your brain that new information is coming and you literally lose your train of thought the moment that bell rings. Your brain is hungry for the new information, but the way your brain works the creative process are interrupted.
“Creative processes are like stew; they have to come to a boil. It’d be like trying to cook something but turning the oven on and off. I’ve been feeling that recently – having difficulty writing and feeling peace. I feel frenetic. A lot of this record started with the idea of ‘Obsolete’ and it’s a very precious song to me – my favorite song on the record.”
Give yourself permission to walk away from the screen and turn off your phone. It doesn’t have to be for a long time – just long enough to think things through and reacquaint yourself with yourself.
Free yourself from the electronic web for a while, and dream.