Kill Your Smart Phone

Tomorrow afternoon I will be leading a workshop at the Breathe Christian Writers Conference on developing a writing rhythm. I’ll talk about the importance of carving out consistent time to write and a space (or spaces) in which to do it. But the most crucial part of the discussion will be on what I’m calling creative sustenance, what others may call “feeding your muse.” And I realized in the course of preparing for this discussion that I have developed a holistic hatred of cell phones in general and smart phones in particular.

I’ve never enjoyed talking on the phone to anyone beyond my husband when we are apart (which really doesn’t happen nowadays, but it certainly did back when I was still in high school and he was off at college already) and I do enjoy an occasional call from a far-flung friend.

Honestly, though, it’s not phone calls that irritate me so much. It’s constant texting, email checking, and web-surfing rather than a.) paying attention to the real person who is talking to you right now, showing just how anti-social social media really makes us, or b.) paying attention to the world around so that you don’t, say, get hit by my Explorer or, heaven forbid, notice the way the trees are swaying or that lonely old man sitting by himself in the corner. Also, there’s that incredible phenomenon of people watching movies on phones or tablets, in public, without headphones. When did that become acceptable?

But for the writer the danger is really point B, and not necessarily because of the possibility of getting run over. It’s because to write about real life you need to pay attention to real life. If it hasn’t already happened, I’m sure someone will make a literary splash at some point for writing a novel entirely in texts, but for most real stories populated with real characters living in a real setting (all of which need to be conveyed in precise words on a page/screen) you have to PAY ATTENTION to the stuff that is real.

If you’re an artist of any kind and you find your well of creativity is running dry, it may be because you’ve been looking at little beyond a screen for too long. Get out in real life and engage. Talk to that old man in the corner. Something he says or the expression that crosses his face will likely inspire you to write a novel or a screenplay or a short story. Look at the tops of those trees swaying in the breeze and imagine what happens on a day where wind blows and leaves wrench themselves from branches and go skittering down the road.

Readers need you to notice for them (because they’re all staring at their little electronic idols too). And you can’t point out beauty and sadness and truth to them if you don’t see it yourself.

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