Saturday, April 27, 2013

Escape from the Internet: A Digital Diet for Creativity

Escape Key by Elhorno
Being submerged in the internet for work each day means that managing my screen time has become a central issue in my life. I'm developing tricks for limiting technology use so I can stay present in my life. One is the digital diet outlined here. I like the simple metaphor of food he uses, because we all have to eat, but what, how much and when, all need to be tailored to our own bodies. 

I've personalized my digital diet by staying offline before and after work, (including my smartphone). For me, the five to eight hour window at work to check and reply to emails and get updated on Facebook is more than sufficient. I've also begun using mindfulness practices, list making and task batching to keep focused- a huge challenge since managing social media is my job! The cyclops we know as television is still part of my life, though I like to keep it at less than one hour per day, preferably none. 

However, none of this addresses the issue of finding time to be creative outside of work. Brene Brown says, "Unused creativity is not benign. It metastasizes." This haunts me, and I feel it with increasing urgency being back in a city so devoted to the arts. 

I've been trying to see a live arts performance at least once a month, since the Twin Cities is second only to New York City in theater seats per capita. The quality is impressive, and it's quite affordable if we see something edgy. During each of these performances, I feel that pang Brown spoke of. It's a squeeze of admiration, awe and jealousy for the people up on stage who are living their dream so fearlessly. It's not that I want to be a great actor. It's that I am an artist and I am not practicing my art. 

In the film Pollock, Lee Krasner says, "You are Jackson Pollock and you don't paint!", and it is her deepest recrimination. He's also a womanizer, and an alcoholic, but she can't forgive how he has turned his back on his talent. 

When I had the luxury of more time to pursue my creative work, I often wasted it on household tasks. I love to potter around my house, baking, organizing, crafting and sometimes, blogging about it. But do those things develop me as an artist? They are creative, but are they art? Are they the one, unique song of my soul? 

I don't think so. They are things I do to feel productive, without actually tackling the work. Artistic work is internal, it means peering into your own soul and seeing what bubbles up from that dark, deep, mysterious well. The housework is tangible, I can see the result when I sort my underwear drawer or mop the floor. Art  sometimes has a physical result, a drawing, an essay, but that isn't the reason for it. That is just an after image, a footprint, a shadow. The real thing art does is to fills you up, in an invisible way, with satisfaction at the effort of looking, taking, and making. It also fills you with a yearning for more of that. 

So how can it be that something so good for me can be so hard to do? So hard to make time for? What is stopping me? My jobs aren't stopping me. My housework isn't stopping me. The internet isn't stopping me. It's me stopping me. But why? Where does fear come from when only good things have ever come from practicing art? 

Do you wrestle with finding time to be creative? Do you want to take the time to listen to the song of your heart, but also feel afraid to listen? 

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