Static and Noise: Getting Off The Computer To Boost Creativity

English: Picture of San Francisco at Sunset. F...

It looks so peaceful before the Idea Beasts come to play. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have a computer addiction.

Seriously. If there was a device that could be implanted in my eyeballs that allowed me 24/7 access to my computer, I’d do it.

So you can imagine how fucking difficult it is for me to take a break from that sweet, sweet glowing box. At the moment, I am taking a computer break. I’m still on it for writing these posts, of course, because the alternative of hand-writing it and then posting a picture of the paper seems a little too cutely hipster-ish for me. But I’m no longer spending most of the day on it: writing, editing, researching, digitally painting.

Not because I don’t love all those things. I do. God, I do. But the computer is full of noise: Twitter, news feeds, the Book of Faces,  YouTube. And then there’s the articles I need to read, and the notes I have to make on them, and the endless rabbit hole of information that I can follow so very, very far down.

I love noise and chaos. But some things need silence to grow, and the semi-ripe ideas I’m working on are among them. Too much static and they never get the brain runtime they need to come to fruition. They just get lost in the swirl of new information. If they’re every going to turn into anything worth writing–and by extension anything worth reading–then they need a little quiet space in which to turn from larvae to monsters that can knock down San Francisco.

So. Time for a break.

Now, before you abandon your internet connection entirely, a caveat: I can only take this break because most of the things I’m doing right now can be done offline. The re-outlining of the novel works best on paper or index cards. I have no short stories in the first stage of writing or editing; instead, I have ideas that I need to work on. Nothing is awaiting final editing before being returned to editors. And I’ve switched to sketch books and pens for a while instead of digital for art. If I had other things that had to be done, then I wouldn’t be able to unplug. And some of those ideas I’m working on would probably die.

The circle of life, baby.

This whole ‘no unnecessary computer’ deal may seem to run contrary to other things I say. Especially the bit about reading a lot and letting a brain compost pile build up so that the ideas bubble to the surface like swamp gas. Two responses to that: 1) what in the name of Primordial Chaos gave you that idea that I ever make sense? Seriously? You’re expecting logic here? And, 2) one thing does not work all the time. Knowing when to switch it up because it’s the right move—as opposed to switching because what you’re working on is hard—is an instinct you need to cultivate. And right now, mine is saying, get the fuck off the computer, woman. Go lie on the couch with a notebook instead. That’s what has to be done now. Worry about tomorrow at the next sunrise. This is what will work today.

So, riddle me this, word herders: what will work for you today?

*A friend of mine once created an RPG character that is so obsessed with information she has a staff of hundreds to sort it and send it directly to her cybernetic implants. That character? Apparently loosely based on my information habits. I can’t decide if it’s an insult or a marvelous pastiche**. Though I suppose it could be both.

**Or an attempt to tell me that I creep him the hell out.

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16 thoughts on “Static and Noise: Getting Off The Computer To Boost Creativity

  1. It’s probably not a coincidence that I have all my breakthrough ideas in the shower or while exercising or while trying to fall asleep. These are almost the only times when I don’t have people/computers/phones/books clamoring for my attention.

  2. I find myself in a drought of creativity, so I decided to attempt a stream of consciousness style blog where I unload things to unclutter other areas where I write. If I do find a diamond in the rough, so much the better. Your idea of unplugging is a good one, alas, not an option for me.

    • Getting rid of the internal editor and allowing yourself the freedom to just write is also useful, and something I’ve used as well. Though I don’t tend to put my unfiltered brain juice out on the internet, if only because no one wants to see that many swear words in one sentence.

  3. I was in rural Mexico last week, unplugged from phone, internet, retail stores, electricity, heat, running water, flush toilets, pavement. When the sun went down it was so dark I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face, and it was too cold not to be in a sleeping bag anyway. Stories did not appear in my head but I had a hell of a good time getting to know the members of the team. http://www.robertcdeming.me

  4. Hope you don’t mind – I’ve linked to this in my blog – Always enjoy reading your blogs and this one made me smile – I am constantly falling down that ‘rabbit-hole of information’, so I know exactly what you mean! I think this is great advice. Some of my best ideas happen whilst driving to work, which I guess supports your point! Keep writing and sharing please! TDx

  5. I think ideas come both ways: on and off the computer. Sometimes I’ll be typing and an idea just flows from my brain through the keys onto the screen. How did that happen, I think, but it’s too good to question.

    Other times, I will be on a walk, listening to some particularly soul crushing lyrics or thinking about the book I am currently reading, and bam, out of nowhere comes an idea that I race home to get down. Don’t know why I race, as I won’t forget the idea unless I’m hit by a car on the way or something, and further walking would probably results in more good ideas, but that’s usually my routine.

    Also, for some reason, ideas come to me when I’m folding laundry (I have 3 kids and fold a lot of laundry.)

    Anyway, those are my random thoughts on the whole ideas for writing. ‘Course I should mention I’ve never been published, so my ideas might all be for s**t!

    Best regards,
    Elizabeth

  6. Great post. I do most of my writing on an old computer that is in a separate room to where I normally work with my husband bashing away on his keyboard (that in itself was too much of a distraction.) But this old computer isn’t connected to the internet – it just runs Word and Excel. And it has a nice view of the garden too, which helps!

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