I chuckled this morning as I recounted yesterday’s events while writing in my journal. Included were the following notations: Deb called. Jac texted. Mary texted. Peg emailed. Dana emailed. Mish texted. D called. And suddenly it struck me that it is absolutely impossible to disconnect from the world these days.
There is no escaping the world to wander about a pond for months. From July 4, 1845 to Sept. 6, 1847 Henry David Thoreau lived alone in the cabin he built on the shores of Walden Pond, near Concord, Massachusetts. Reclusive – isolated – internal — with nature as his muse. His self-examination and the effects of nature became his experiment in essential living.
There are at least a couple of problems with that picture. First of all, being isolated often produces insanity instead of creativity. And how long can a person be so introspective? To be honest, I’m not sure I have that much inside that’s worth sharing with the world. I’d bore my readers to death very quickly. It’s hard enough to blog once a week about anything remotely original.
I come up to northern Arizona to commune with nature; it’s true, and to write fiction. At times, the number of outside connections annoys me. If I’m right in the middle of a scene or am experiencing a profound revelation, the ping of a text message can disrupt the process. There is a simple solution, of course – turn off the cell phone and the computer and the tablet and any other devices I own.
But like everyone else, I still check them even if they’re turned off. It’s a habit; it’s addictive. I cannot control the need to check for blinking icons – a new text message, a missed call. Without knowing, I might die …
I read a newspaper article yesterday that said on average, 40% of the work-day is now spent reading and responding to e mail. Productivity has plummeted in the workplace since the inception of e mail. A few simple solutions were recommended: Schedule e mail time for twice per day. (or once if you dare). Look only at red flagged items. And put away the cell phone. I’m sure my daughter would argue that her New York bosses would fire her if she did any of those!
I do know that digital interruptions have increased each year. The amount of e mails I get today, even after retiring, is enormous. There is as much junk e mail in my computer in-box as there is junk mail in my postal box. Hundreds. In fact, there is very little necessary mail in either.
But back to Thoreau – the poor man must have grown weary sitting at that isolated pond day after day. I mean, even a modern day retreat is limited to a few days or at most, a couple of weeks.
What happens for me is that after too many days of isolation my brain turns off and that includes creativity. Human interaction is also important to the process. If you don’t live, what are you going to write about? I’m not an expert on Thoreau. I read him in American Lit class years ago and pull Walden out occasionally. Maybe what made Thoreau’s work interesting to the masses was that back then not everyone had immediate answers to every question via a Google search. Just saying . . .