Can We Find Stillness in a Digital World?Posted: April 9th, 2013 | Author: Katie | Filed under: doing what you love, literature, searching for happiness, Writing | Tags: New Self New World, Philip Shepherd, The Sun | 4 Comments »
“The world is calling you to come play, to come risk, to let your heart burn with a passion that will make sense of your life. The world will speak to you as intimately as your mother did when you were a child, if you can allow the body to teach you its different way of listening.”
My friend says she has trouble leaving the house knowing a load of laundry just finished drying. When it’s still warm . . . it’s hard for her, letting go of that chance, that moment, that perfect time to fold.
This is not my compulsion, to grab laundry while it’s hot. A clean basket of clothes sits dormant in my house for days.
But we all have our thing.
I have trouble leaving the home when I have a writing idea. I am not now a working mom, at least I don’t get paid for it, and that’s ok—it’s my choice and I’m lucky to have the choice—but I am busy. When I have free moments, I want to write.
I feel a certain pull towards the computer especially now that my girl Lexi is registering for full-day school next year. For Lexi, this is unadulterated joy—no question—to be going to school with her sister, to be riding the school bus. For me, mixed feelings. She’s ready but I will miss her. She will love her new school but what’s next for me?
I imagine any number of parents transitioning from staying-at-home to doing-what’s-next must hear a similar constant hum. What is next?
I’ve been writing. I’ve always wanted to write. I’ve spoken to published authors, to marketing folks. I’ve sent notes to poor, unsuspecting people in the writing biz who’ve been kind enough to give me snapshot advice without charging me.
A lot of what I need to do involves the computer: I’ve got to build a following. I’ve got to make slews of Facebook friends. I’ve got to post at least once a week on a blog that is narrow enough to reach a broad audience. I need a brand. I can self-publish, but be warned: I will be disappointed because if I don’t have a following now, I won’t when I publish.
Writers, from what I have been gathering, need to be tech-savvy business-people. Writers need to spend ample time on-line, searching websites and blogs. They need to tap into communities and present themselves through comments, but they can’t be too needy, they have to be sincere in their responses, not transparently groveling for tit-for-tat visits on websites.
I’ll tell you, the screen time kills me.
At the end of the day, if I want to spend any time looking at words on a page, I’d rather they be in the new C.S. Lewis biography or in Robin Black’s short story collection.
And really, the black and white of it is this—the words I need to be seeing are my own words typing back at me in black and white.
I was having drinks with friends the other night, and I mentioned that while my husband Dave had been outside with the girls earlier in the day, I had decided to sit down on my bed for ten minutes.
They looked at me expectantly, like there was more to this strange story.
I told them I’d read a piece in The Sun’s latest issue about Philip Shepherd’s book New Self, New World and it had made me want to slow things down a bit. I figured I could spare myself ten minutes.
It’s funny how funny that is—explaining to good friends who happen to be excrutiatingly busy parents that I sat down without an intention of doing anything. No warm laundry. No warm computer. Nothing.
And it’s funny how funny I had felt, sitting there on my bed, doing nothing.
The Shepherd piece in The Sun is part profile/part interview. It took him eight years to write the book, so there’s obviously ground to cover, but one theme is what he describes to be our addiction to digital information in this modern era. He distinguishes between digital information (made of bits and pieces) and analog information (coming to us in steady, connected waves) in such a way that as I read, I immediately saw myself from outside looking in.
I was that person he was describing: the one tap-tap-tapping on my keyboard, searching the web for writers’ tips, connections, ideas, anything I could grab at random. I was that poor, disconnected soul, pressing link after link, consuming, consuming . . .
Shepherd says we need to listen to our other brain—not the one in our head, but the one in our gut. “You cannot reason your way into stillness.” We need to prioritize sensing over reasoning. Maybe then, if we stop stuffing our heads with bits and pieces of other people’s insights, we can make room for our own.
I did not arrive upon greatness when I allowed myself those ten minutes.
I actually heard a lot of noise—dogs barking, birds chattering, the elevated traffic sounds that come to me clearer when there are no leaves on the trees to help buffer. I saw the red buds on the maples surrounding our house; it looked like autumn to me as I peered out of the bedroom window. There was a persuasion of spring but I still felt the dulling effects of the colder months.
You cannot reason your way into stillness. There’s a whole lot of noise. Ten minutes ain’t gonna cut through the muck.
But it’s a start. To be in stillness . . . that’s what will get us moving.