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A Week Without Internet

January 25, 2010

A son's perspective on his mother's internet useage.

Sitting down today I thought I knew what I was going to write – a how to nurture and maintain a sense of creative headspace, as promised last week. That was demolished when a call came through from my partner to say our car is cactus, with repairs in the four figures. Bye-bye creative headspace.

So I offer you this question:  Would you be able to live without the internet/your online life for an entire week? (That includes smart phones with internet connectivity!)

Julia Cameron, in The Artist’s Way (published back in 1994) has this to say:

For Artists words are like tiny tranquilisers. We have a daily quota of media chat that we swallow up. Like greasy food, it clogs our system. Too much of it and we feel, yes, fried. It is a paradox that by emptying our lives of distractions we are actually filling the well. Without distractions, we are once again thrust in the sensory world.

Substitute ‘words’ for ‘information’ and it’s a bingo hit for me and many other creative individuals today. The internet is my biggest distraction, the largest contributor to my mental and creative clutter and a huge time suck to boot … and I’ve never even played Farmville on Facebook nor do I wish to!

I’m currently wrestling with the idea of a week without internet and wondering how it could possibly work with a new anthology project ready to start on the 14th February, which includes a brand-spanking-new opening story.

Three years ago I did an entire week without internet or reading of any type. I also did no television and text messaging. It was the biggest release and relief. I had forgotten what a quiet headspace actually was.. and appalled how bad it had got without me even realising.  The cumulative effect numbs you to the damage being done. The chance to get away from it… profound.

Right now, I know I need the time away. I need to detox, declutter and recharge ready for a new year. The three days over Christmas was a good start, but I require longer. There are so many reasons to say no to such a crazy idea, or ‘I can’t’ – the addiction is pretty well enshrined and legitimised by running an online business.

For the time being I’m making two major adjustments to my online work life.

Firstly the computer goes off at 8:30pm – no ifs, no buts. This is a huge inconvenience given the time difference between Brisbane and London at the moment is nine hours and the time between 8:30pm and 12:00am is peak contact time for me with this region of the world. At night, instead of medicating myself with the net, I’ve been reading more, doing some sewing and going to bed earlier, thus getting more sleep – all good for me!

Secondly I’ve been taking an entire day away from the computer- normally Saturday. The days I have no internet contact I’m calmer and more focused. I’m slower to anger when I’m interrupted and less annoyed when I am. I spend time outdoors and going on adventures with my family. I feel like I’m leaving my fish bowl. I’d be kidding myself it I said there was no difference.

As a self employed person it is easy to work seven days a week, so one day away from the computer serves as a mandatory day off – and we all deserve one of those.

While I may and I may not take a week off before my creative New Year kicks off, I feel like I’m mitigating the worst effects of the internet by moderating my intake and learning to live with the boundaries and inconveniences inherent in it. Life wasn’t meant to be easy and it was certainly never intended to be one-click-away-instantaneous-24-7.

Internet, friend or foe?

Jodi Cleghorn wonders what kinds of stories await unearthing on public transport and in used car yards? She is certain there will at least be some interesting photos begging to be snapped. For more writing and photography check out Writing in Black and White.  And don’t forget Chinese Whisperings!
  1. January 25, 2010 2:54 am

    Internet friend or foe? I have a small group of really good friends I get together with regularly (either in person or, in one case, on-line). But if I spent the best part of the day with them, I suspect I would soon tire of them, and they with me – probably even sooner. So the internet can be useful (i.e. friend) without it taking over my life, which I admit is sometimes a struggle to achieve.

    You mention taking a day off work per week. If I’m categorical here, I don’t want to come across as being judgemental. I have strong views on this matter but I recognise everyone has the right to ignore these views and to do as she/he thinks best. I genuinely think that as human being we are created in such a way so as to need re-energizing (creative) rest; and we need one day in the week where we can pursue other interests. How this works out in practice will differ from person to person. Some spend their days in front of a computer, others on a building site, others behind the steering wheel or knocking on other people’s doors. Each one will relax in different ways. And that’s how it should be.

    As to taking a week long break from the internet – and I’m speaking here as one of those involved in the anthology launch which seems to be holding you back – I would say, if you need it, go for it. Apart from the obvious, not taking the week off before final edits have to be in and you likely to be highly solicited by your writers, it should be fairly easy to manage. Just let us know in advance, when you’re not available. I don’t see any problem with that.

  2. January 25, 2010 5:16 am

    When this was posed to me last year, my answer was no, I couldn’t do it.


    So long as an exception was made for work emails or research at my day job, then yes I could. If no exceptions were made of course, I’d need to take the time off work!

    Last year I felt we had to baby the anthology along at all times and be available 24/7. Now, I’m not so sure about that. Sometimes you can just let things progress. “Attend to what love requires of you, which may not be great busyness. “

  3. January 25, 2010 5:06 pm

    “Attend to what love requires of you, which may not be great busyness.”

    I’m going to write that on a beautiful piece of paper and put that on my wall above the desk. As someone who has struggled with an addiction to ‘busyness’ for ever, it seems like a loving antidote for it. Spending hours up at night is no longer a way to love myself. There are other ways to love and nurture myself. Hmmm…

    And Paul S – I totally agree that rest is important. For me, as someone who always seems to need to be busy, setting boundaries is what gets me rest. And rest doesn’t necessitate sitting/lying around doing nothing. There is nothing more invigorating for the soul, the mind and the body that an a walk in the rainforest. Well that’s me. I know everyone is different.

    As for time out… I might just swing it if I only stick to email alone… and perhaps only a handful of people I must keep in contact with in that week (which granted are quite small if I’m truly honest with myself!)

  4. January 25, 2010 11:49 pm

    I think Julia Cameron is brilliant. I did the week without reading, etc. several years ago. It is NOT easy, but it IS cleansing. Could I do it at this point, now?I really don’t know. I am learning to turn my wireless off when I am writing, so I’m not tempted to check the (stupid) Facebook statuses or check on my email for the hundredth time.

    I can also quite easily ignore that useless thing called a TV in the living room, though I still enjoy getting my fill of Two and a Half Men and Frasier reruns.

    I’ve been playing with the idea of doing The Artist’s Way again. And if I do, it’ll have to be very soon, as I’m beginning a course on Feb. 11. Reading your blog has given me pause to consider this quite seriously.

    But for now, I really am up way too late, enjoying myself way too much, reading blogs I’ve never read before, and spending far too much energy worrying about spending too much time on the internet tonight.

    Tomorrow is, after all, another day.

  5. January 26, 2010 5:22 am

    I was listening to Mur Lafferty’s I Should Be Writing podcast this morning, and she mentioned that she is keen to do The Artist’s Way again, as she did it a few years ago. She’s thinking that if she does so, she’ll make it part of her podcast (as special episodes), so if you are planning on doing it, it would be worth subscribing to the podcast to take part with her.

    Hell, it’s worth subscribing to her podcast anyway…

  6. January 26, 2010 6:24 am

    sod it… are you kidding? the internet is one of the best inventions EVER! yes you can get sucked into dumb sites and spent hours ( weeks, months) on games with people all round the globe whom you would not normally spend anytime with if you’d met them face to face – but coming to think of that – humm, I spent a huge amount of my Uni life squirrelled away either drinking to excess or playing D & D – so umm no difference there…

    I have just spent 20 mins typing a response – and have deleted it. I think I ‘ll make this my post for Wed…..

  7. January 26, 2010 8:14 am

    Your article immediately reminded me of a quote from author/artist/philosopher, Danny Greggory:

    “… keep telling yourself that you work to earn a living and that you must never forget to do the living that you have earned.”

    I try to take a day off each week. I don’t always succeed, but I try. I figure once the kids are out of the house I can work seven days a week, but for now, I want to spend a little time with them.

  8. January 26, 2010 7:44 pm

    You’ve mentioned Mur before and I’ve been tossing up between Artist Way and another program Annie suggested. I like to start the year with some JC – get into the right head space. Plus I”m keen to do The Vein of Gold.

    Erin: If it weren’t for JC I probably wouldn’t be here writing now – it was the turning point for me and I will forever be grateful to her and my beautiful friend Danae who not only introduced her book to me, but this wonderful blog as well.

  9. January 28, 2010 8:10 pm

    The week off from the internet is a good idea. I love being able to get away from things and just think. It really helps with the creativity to get away.

  10. January 29, 2010 8:23 pm

    It’s so funny that you write about this now. I am going for a week without internet (or even reliable phone service) in about two weeks. I earn my living online, so the decision had to be made around work times and still the thought is daunting. However, given the way my writing is going (or not going), I think this is the best thing I can do for myself right now.

    I hear you on how easy it is to work seven days a week. I think I’ll come back from this with a greater appreciation of quiet time and a firm dedication to declaring a no-internet day (I’m thinking Saturday, too).

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