So... It turns out that not only am I obsessed with minimizing the influence that social media and the internet have on my daily life, but I'm also incredibly busy that I forget to take just a few short minutes to do the simple things.
This week's #DigitalDetox challenge was to write someone a letter. You would think that for a writer, this one would be simple. But the truth was a bitter pill to take.
I had colored in the picture for the challenge, and... Yeah... Um... That is sort of where it ended. I had allowed my busy schedule and my interactions with others to take over, and when it came time to recharge... Well... I binge watched Friends on Netflix.
So, there were a few lessons to learn from this week's experience.
Failure Learnings after Success
After last week's success, having little issue with going for walks without the sounds pumping into the ears (something that I was doing before this challenge started anyway), this week highlighted some failings possible issues within my attitudes to my schedules and my recharge practices.
The first issue is initially thinking that this experience was a failure, because it wasn't. It was an opportunity to learn something valuable about myself. If I really don't like what I learned, then it's an opportunity to change it. So, here's hoping that as I write the rest of this blog post that I stop calling this past week a failure. Trust me, it wasn't a 'failure' week—just a busy one.
Saying that, my other major lesson about this week is that while I do my best to protect my writing and working time, I still let others encroach on that precious time. And it's not by others constantly interrupting me either. It's me allowing comments and communications from others to get to me, throwing me off my game.
And when I'm mentally thrown, I seem to just want to hide from everything—which isn't the answer either.
The Week of Attempting the Challenge
Sunday, I dutifully spent time at night while the family was watching TV to color in the page. (Isn't it pretty?) But I knew at that time of night, anything more than just coloring in things wasn't going to happen.
At night, my brain turns to mush and I'm barely able to speak. No, seriously... I get serious brain fog and I struggle to articulate my thoughts. I know what I want to say, but I can't get the words out.
When I first started experiencing the brain fog phenomenon, I got scared. It was happening every day like clockwork, and I was struggling to communicate. I couldn't find the words. For a person whose livelihood relies on the ability to communicate, I started to wonder if my writing career was over before it had even began. But over time—and a lot of research—I realized I didn't need to be scared. It was my body's way of telling me to slow down and that I was done for the day. After near on 5 years of living with this, I now know the signs to look out for to know when it's time for me to say goodnight to the world and find LaLa Land. And I also know if I'm pushing myself too hard, because that brain fog sets in much earlier than it normally does.
So, on the first day of this week's challenge, it was just color in the page, intending to write a letter to someone on Monday... Tuesday... Wednesday... Thursday... and yeah... Not happening.
On Monday, I was able to get in my morning writing time with little issue, focusing on my main writing project, but when it came to the letter... "I'll do it tomorrow." Tuesday morning, all good. Then certain comments were said to me that just festered in my subconscious for a few days, niggling at my productivity and getting in the way of what I really wanted to be doing. Thursday morning hit and I made the mistake of opening my email, finding a bill that shouldn't have been there. Everything just seemed to crash down on me at once, and any thoughts of writing that day were gone. And writing a letter to someone... "Forget it... Not happening." (I was too mad.) Instead, I decided to free write and ranted endlessly about all the things that were frustrating me.
Friday, I had my weekly session with my accountability buddy... and that was when I put the pieces together.
I have successfully carved out a block of the day where my family and friends know that it's my work time, where I'm meant to be writing (and editing client manuscripts). But somewhere along the way, I had let the interactions of the past chip away at that time. I wasn't protecting it from the one person who could totally derail my schedules: Me.
That was when I sat down and had a nice long chat with myself (I do this at times) and started looking at what I had done during the week and how I was spending my time. I actually got a lot done this week, but I was still letting the comments of the past fester. I was struggling to let it go. And with the help of my accountability buddy, I've decided on a few tactics that will hopefully allow me to protect my writing time from self-sabotage in future. Ironically, all of them are connected to the digital world in some way.
Taking the #DigitalDetox to another level
Yeah, so it turns out that while I'm gaining control over my social media practices, it's other aspects of the digital world that are impacting on my daily life. So, here are the things that I'm doing to move forward.
1) No email before 9am.
For some people, this might seem like nothing of real significance, but I'm at my computer every morning before 6am. So, if I abstain from email until 9am, then that's 3 solid hours of ignorant bliss where I can focus on my writing. And in most cases, if there is something of importance that demands my attention to be dealt with that day, I have to wait until 9am to make calls to business call centers anyway.
So, waiting until 9am to look at the email is not going to hurt me.
2) I have to relinquish control properly of my morning writing group.
Every morning, I take part in an online writing group, where we spend most of the morning doing sprints, trying to get the words down. Focused periods between the casual banter. Last year, I had encouraged the other regulars in the group to take over the timers on 5 of the 7 days. But I was still dictating the time we started. And when decided that 7 days a week was killing me (stressing me out to the max), I was the one who killed a session, bringing it back to 6 days a week.
I wanted others to control, yet I wasn't letting them take control. Going forward, that has to change.
So, I'm spreading the word among the group as I see them that if they're running a session, they get complete control over that session, including the ability to dictate when the session starts. It will mean that some sessions will not suit my schedule, but why should I continue to insist that everything fit my schedule. The group was started to encourage each other to write, hopefully being at a time that suited everyone, but for writing practices to truly be sustainable, they need to suit the individual writer. If I'm wanting others to take control over sessions, I need to also give them the power to set up that session in a way that suits them.
3) Blog post don't need to be read right away.
Like many writers, I subscribe to an insane number of blogs. And the email notifications fill my inbox.
Years ago, as in back in 2016, I developed the practice of having a separate email dedicated for the spam I want. It's the email I sign up for blogs and newsletters with. So, if I'm away and that particular inbox overflows, I can just do a generic delete without much consequence. All the important communications emails go to a separate email account.
But if I don't read those emails and do something about the posts of interest, they pile up and nothing happens. It's a minor problem, but there is sometimes something that is important for me to know. For example, recently the New Zealand National Library decided to gift a large portion of their catalogue to a known piracy site. This has a significant impact on me as a New Zealand writer. So, I can't just ignore the blog posts. But I don't need to read everything right away either.
Bookmarking the pages wasn't working—I'd forget about the bookmarks, then would have to clean out those bookmarks months later. But I now have a Remarkable tablet, where I can open any page on the web and send that page to my Remarkable where there are no pictures, comments, or other links to distract me from the content. And even better, I can read all the articles later in the day when I'm sitting comfortably on the couch with my feet up.
And it's working! Now, when going through those blog posts, I just open the website, click a button, then close the webpage again and move on. It's only a matter of seconds, not hours. And for any page that didn't transfer properly, I can scan the post for the information that I'm interested in. If I'm still wanting the details, I print to a PDF file and transfer that to my Remarkable instead.
That tablet is definitely turning into a good investment.
4) I need to remember that prioritizing my writing time is NOT selfish.
This is the hardest lesson to learn. And I still haven't learned it properly.
For years, I have been giving so much of myself to help other writers that I allowed other writers to encroach on my writing time. And I felt really guilty when I tried to reclaim that writing time for myself.
But I'm not being selfish. I still have time set aside to have those valuable interactions with other writers. I'm still taking the time to help writers in any way I can. It's just that for certain hours of the day, I need to claim my time for my personal writing projects only.
And it was this realization that in part let to point 2 above. I have to relinquish control over certain things, so I can maintain control over the things that really matter to me.
Prioritizing my writing time is NOT selfish.
Next Week's Challenge
So... While I still want to do the write someone a letter challenge, I think challenge #3 will help me to remember that I need to slow down occasionally.
According to the trusty book, Challenge #3 is Spend 30 minutes looking at the clouds. I'm looking forward to this.
I will remind my followers on social media what the challenge is come Monday.