Warning: Ignoring Your Phone Will Definitely Improve Your Life

Writers are busy people. Well, I’m a busy person, and you might be a little like me, don’t you think?

You, Me, And That Other Guy, Too

I used to have a phone. A long, long time ago, I had one of those black, Samsung flip phones. I had a nice, catchy ringtone on it, and many people called me, and I called them back. It was pretty dandy. I even had a limited texting plan.

Ah, Samsung

Then, eventually, I got a different phone. Phones were better, fancier, useful-er. I had another phone, and then, I got rid of my phone entirely.

Yes, that’s right, I do not currently own a phone. My spouse has informed me that I will soon, once again, own a phone. Sigh. Or, as the sponge might say, “Le sigh!”

Just Say No!

Here are some pointers for existing (now and then) without digits.

1: Establish Usage Times That Are Carved In Stone

I know this sounds like those times that it’s January 3rd, and you have sworn upon ten million bibles that you will never consume sugar for the entire year so that you can lose sixty-four pounds and have rock-hard abs, but you really can succeed at limiting your phone usage (ask me how I know this!).

Ring Ring Ring

How you do this successfully is by looking at your existing phone and internet usage. Generally, if you observe yourself (like a naturalist eye-balling a feral wildebeest), you find that there are hot, peak-areas where you just have to have your phone or you’re going to explode (if you exist in this state continuously throughout the day, that’s another problem, and you’ll have to learn how to write on your phone, which, I hear, lots of successful people do). Observe yourself, and make notes of when you really, truly need access to your phone. For me, I find my need for connectivity around the early afternoon and late at night. If I’m honest with myself (and here I am drawing a line of similarity between internet-social-usage and phone-browsing-fiddling), I will get more writing and planning and marketing done if I isolate my social-phone-equivalent-mucking-about to a chunk of time around lunch and before bed.

2: Start With The Teensiest Baby Steps Imaginable

The secret to success in this sort of endeavor is to make winning really, ridiculously simple. You are behaving right now in a way that you find emotionally stable; inflicting sudden, harsh change sets you up to fail, and you will give up in less than a week—because your emotional continuity will plummet, and you’ll feel horrible, and you’ll go back to being glued to your phone-friend to console yourself for being such a failure at keeping your goals. So set a little-bitty goal, like, for example, leave your phone five minutes (or fifteen) before you normally would, and get back to your regular tasks. And during your designated “phone free” writing time, make notes of what you think of doing instead of going and doing it. For example, I often run into questions about spelling, or isolated research questions while I’m writing (like, for example, I want to find the year those miniature skateboards were issued in cereal boxes). Looking up detailed information on the time it takes for a corpse to decompose has never been easier than in our internet-connected days, but research can eat up all of your writing time before you can say “How fast can my horse-riding caravan cross this stretch of Montana?”

Oh, Research!

Keep a notebook, or a Word tab, or a Sticky Note open to one side, and make a brief summation of each “I must know this!” or “Arg, I should pay my phone bill today!” thought that stampedes through your brain.

3: Make Phone-Free Writing Sessions A Game

Habitica has the right idea about this. Imagine that you are a hero on a journey, and you’ve met the mysterious old man in the cave, and he tells you that you’ll never be able to defeat the monster until you can sharpen your focus. “Work on your story without letting your fingers touch the phone,” he intones, “and you surely will find success in your journey!”

Then you can make a little grandstand of imaginary fans sitting behind you and going “Noooo!” every time you slip up and grab your phone to find out how many minutes are left in your writing time.

4: Downgrade To A Talk-Only Phone

Writing is easier when you’re engaging in the world and the people around you, and the last resort for people like you and me is to either forgo a phone entirely, or to get one of those cute dinosaur phones that don’t have an exciting touch-screen. You know, if you’re desperate for more writing time, and less stress.

Phones, Phones, Everywhere

I may find myself in possession of a phone ere long, and if I do, I shall endeavor to take my own advice, and curb the amount of disruption such a thing could potentially wreak upon my writing time. May the divine muses of discipline, inspiration, and sustained effort shine upon you, me, and all the other writers in the known universe.

You’re reading a blog about writing by Victor Poole. I was cleaning stuff with hoses recently. I’ve got two books that will be out shortly, and they are very exciting.

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