Silver Wordsmith: An author's journey
I am once again confronted by the fact that there is nothing good to be had from our ability to constantly be plugged into something.
I’m not a luddite though, by any means and scoff at the Boomer-esque finger-wagging that kids these don’t even know what a book is. And as an introvert, group chats and text messages have allowed me to keep up with people in ways I wouldn’t have bee able to before. So no, I don’t have a general aversion to technology and social media, but man do I have an issue with its ubiquity, and not only that, but the drive it sometimes creates to be plugged in lest one feel like they’re “wasting their time”.
I’ve expressed these concerns in earlier posts where I’ve postulated that one of the worst things for our mental health is the news cycle and that boredom is an essential ingredient of creativity.
As someone who apparently needs to learn the same lesson more than once, its this latter realization that struck me again recently.
By a congruence of circumstances, the details of which we don’t need to get into, I found myself on an impromptu walk with my nephew in a baby carrier, and the kid fell asleep within a minute of being put in.
I was in this rare instance where there wasn’t much for me to do – I had no older kids around to talk to, no adults, a phone whose battery was running low and AirPods that I left at home and didn’t want to fetch because I’d risk my passenger waking up too early from his nap.
So there I was, at the mercy of however long he would be dozing (if experience was any indication, it could easily be more than an hour) and no tech to help me pass the time – no news cycle to browse or I’d drain my battery, and no AirPods to tune into any podcasts or audiobooks. It was blissful rare silence.
Oh my fingers definitely itched to do something, and my brain, suddenly deprived of electronic stimuli to constantly process was worried that this was wasted time. I lamented the forgotten AirPods, thinking that this was a half hour or an hour where I could have caught up on Brandon Sanderson’s The Way of Kings, an audiobook that never seems to end. What am I doing if I’m not utilizing every second of my time to do something “useful” and not multitasking in the process?
Then once the silence became more familiar and my mind settled down about being constantly stimulated, something amazing happened – my brain did not atrophy from disuse. On the contrary, it found new things to enjoy, like the quietness of the park and the warmth of the day.
In the space created by not constantly jamming information into my head, creativity came unbidden and my mind started to wander to my writing projects, solving problems, creating plotlines, moving through dialogue.
Here’s where a continued attachment to technology continues to be useful. I didn’t have my Moleskine notebook about me, but I still had my phone with whatever amount of battery it had remaining – just enough to run the Notes app and to let me jot those thoughts down. So completely out of the blue, I got to sketch a skeletal outline of the next chapter of one my works, and got to brainstorm a few things for upcoming chapters of another work.
There is so much pleasure to find in “boredom” – if you can even call a pleasant walk around the neighbourhood “boring” – that I can’t stress it enough, for writers, or anyone else for that matter.
I’m very thankful for the circumstances that conspired that day, and for my nephew clocking out before I even got a chance to get all my ducks in a row. I hope this doesn’t remain as a lesson that I have to keep learning over and over – that I can make more space in my day to have these periods of quiet solitude where I can think and move pieces of my writing in place that just wouldn’t settle down in the face of all the hustle and bustle. So please take my advice, even if I might not.
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Michael is a husband, father of two, lawyer, writer, and is currently working on his first novel, at a snail's pace. A very leisurely snail. All opinions are author's own.