I went about a week, from March 22nd to March 29th, not writing anything here on the blog. I couldn't put my finger on what was happening but each time I thought about writing, I had no ideas. Zero. Zilch. Zip. Nada.
I even pulled up the screen a few times and stared at the big blank space I am typing into right now and still there was nothing. Was I blocked? I really started to ask myself that.
So, I get to Wednesday evening and close my laptops (work and personal) and put the iPad on the charger and go grab the latest book I am reading which is a real, paper book this time although I don't think there is an awful lot of difference reading a "real" book and reading on my Kindle Paperwhite. Both have no notifications popping up and zero distractions fighting for my attention. When I read, the rest of the world goes silent.
Apparently this silence was what I needed. It had nothing to do with the content of the book but about five pages in I had the realization that disconnecting from all the noise of work, social media, content, content, content(!) was exactly what I needed and all of that noise is what had caused me to sort of lock up.
I wasn't blocked. I wasn't out of ideas. I had TOO MANY ideas in my head all at once. I needed the quiet of reading a book and focusing on just one thing to "clear the mechanism" as they said in that awful baseball movie years ago. "Clear the mechanism" is the one good part and I go back to it over and over.
I wrote about interference back in January when I was trying to minimize all of the material things and posts on the bulletin board, etc. that were making my work space so "noisy" and I didn't make the connection there but Marie Kondo wrote about this in her books (which I read last year), talking about how we should remove labels from plastic storage boxes and other items because we didn't need these words and graphics jumping out at us every time we opened a cabinet or closet. Who would think that something that seems so minor could make such a big difference but it has for me!
I did all that. I removed labels and I cleaned up my workspace but I still have had too much noise in my life (remove one distraction and you reveal five more) and I think now it is the words and ideas I invite in my head by choice on Twitter and Facebook and by watching videos on YouTube and listening to tons of podcasts, etc. or not by choice but I have to because it's my job or they are my family or I need to order this McRib so I must interact with this person at the drive-thru, etc.
In the 80's and 90's, we left interactions with people at the end of the work day or school day and went home to quiet. No boops. No beeps. We could turn on the television but typically would just focus on the one thing. I guess it's more of a focus issue than a content issue because now we are bombarded by interactions and notifications and we live with the angst of FOMO. There are so many reasons to pick up our devices and check in when back in the 80's and 90's, I could focus clearly on one thing at a time.
A lot of people speak to me all day long and even if I shut it off for an afternoon, it still takes time to process all that was said. With all of these words and ideas bouncing around in my head, I end up feeling just plain overwhelmed so when I do have time to create, I'm mentally exhausted and nothing comes out.
All I can say now is I'm working on that and I now that I must always stay aware of the benefits of turning things off (versus the laziness of just picking up the iPad and getting lost in "content") and not just for a few minutes here and there, but also for a few hours sometimes and that might grow to a few days here and there - whatever it takes to be able to keep creating and not just be a sponge absorbing until I can't hold anymore.
Of course, the fact that you are reading this means noise has been "transmitted" from me to you and that brings me to the next question - how much should we choose to "absorb" and how do we correctly pick and choose what is important enough to keep letting in versus what we need to either take a break from or shut out completely?
This is the next step in the process and I am slowly making those decisions one piece of information at a time - tweet by tweet, blog by blog, magazine by magazine, video by video, podcast by podcast.