My husband and I have been longtime holdouts in the cell phone world, dragging our heels and hanging onto phones that do little more than call or text. We’ve had good reasons — the cost seems ridiculous, we’re Luddites at heart, they can become a colossal time-suck in people’s lives. But mainly it’s been that we don’t want to become pointless-amusement-obsessed zombies who can’t even be fully in a conversation with another person without itching to check (or actually checking) our phones. Is anything more frustrating that being in a room of people who are pretty much ignoring you as they work on developing their “iPhone chins” by constantly checking Facebook or playing Words with Friends on their phones? (Probably there’s lots of more frustrating situations, but for the sake of this post, these are the most insufferable people in the world, and I don’t want to become one.)
I am definitely a late adopter in most cases of technology development (though for some reason I got on Facebook relatively early). But there have always been several features about smartphones I’ve been keenly interested in using. MyFitnessPal, instantly posting photos to Facebook, easily finding restaurants near you in an unfamiliar town, instantly finding out what awesome song was playing on the speakers at the coffee shop and being able to buy that song right then and there…. And Instagram. Not necessarily to send photos of my food out into the world (though if it looks amazing, why not?) but to get beautiful photos fed to me and to share the occasional beautiful photo myself. Plus there’s just a really fun kind of Polaroid vibe on Instagram I’ve kind of felt left out of.
Zach (who still proudly uses a c. 2003 Palm Pilot daily, mind you) had to get out of his old but beloved phone’s grip (cost benefit ratio did not add up) and found a very inexpensive Android phone that wouldn’t cost a ridiculous amount of money each month (thus satisfying his cheap Dutchman’s heart) but would also interact with his Palm platform, thus not rendering his Palm obsolete, the specter of which I’m sure kept him up nights. And every time he told me something else very practical he could now do, I coveted that new phone. So, now we have his and hers.
And now I’m on Instagram, just in time for gorgeous summer travel Up North and another trip to the Southwest come September. If you want to follow me there, you can by clicking here. At the moment my photo stream is sparse and lacking in variety (hey, I haven’t left the house since I started it — give a girl a break) but I’m hoping to remedy that in the coming weeks. I’d love to see you over there. 🙂
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.