Tuesday, February 21, 2017

6 Ways to Unplug

This is the second in a series of posts I am writing, inspired by Brian Gardner's No Sidebar post, "50 Simple Things You Need to Hear."

I've certainly found this to be true. The problem is, I keep "discovering" how important it can be, to my regular life, and to my writing life. I need to really learn this lesson, and build on getting better at it. Sheesh!

Last March I spent a week in Tucson, staying with friends. 

My plan was to get up early, watch the sunrise, write, 
and then do fun stuff with my friends the rest of the day. 

Instead, I went to bed early and slept late every single day. It was the most restful, relaxing, rejuvenating trip I've ever taken. Wifi was available, but I didn't use it much. I also didn't make any progress on the story at hand, The Ring. Evidently I was at the edge of exhaustion--and from what? I have designed a simple life. The only thing I can imagine that had me so worn out was hours of being online. 

Cell phone addiction? Got it. 
Spending too much time checking stats on Amazon? Been there. 
Sucked into the facebook, instagram, or twitter feeds? Oh yeah.

Because I'm very easily distracted--Squirrel!--I've often failed to accomplish the work I want to do, or fully enjoy the fun things that come along. So I chose Mindfulness as my word for 2017. (You can read about OneWord 365 here.)

Being mindful is a big challenge for me. My brain seems to have a constant need to think about everything at the same time. It's chaos up there. This is exhausting (especially when it happens at night) and unproductive.

Below are some things that work for me. Your mileage may vary--and if you have suggestions, please leave them in the comments.

1-Writing a first draft in longhand

I recently decided to try this, and love having my first cup of coffee along with my first 1,000 words of the day. I turn on just one small light, next to the recliner. This feels cozy and indulgent, and yet it's productive. The words are flowing very well, and even though my handwriting stinks, I'm able to decipher it.

2-Leaving the phone out of reach, and silent

Leaving my phone on the other side of the room when I'm writing, and almost always having sounds turned off except for emergency notifications, both help. But if I'm out and about, waiting somewhere for even a few seconds, my habit is to pull out the phone to check what other people are doing somewhere else, instead of noticing what's going on around me. I'm trying to make the conscious effort to leave the phone in my purse and just notice the people nearby, or the blue sky. I don't want to be so addicted to this expensive electronic tether. Still struggling.

3-Taking a long walk

Walking outside is better for mindfulness, because I don't listen to music, or an audiobook. I notice the curve of the path, watch actual squirrels, hear the children playing, and am conscious of traffic. (A good thing, because some of those drivers aren't into taking a break from their phones.) When weather doesn't allow an outdoor walk, I use my stepper, and plug into a podcast about the publishing industry, or listen to an audiobook. I walk an hour or so a day, usually six days a week.


For years, I had thought about trying meditation, and with all that's happening in our world, the beginning of 2017 seemed the perfect time. I'm doing ten minutes after my walk, and ten minutes right before bed. It's not magic, but I find it helpful. I consider meditation to be an investment in my health. I use the Headspace app.

5-Limiting online time

Since I write first, have a healthy breakfast, take a long walk, meditate, and then shower, I don't even touch my laptop until much later in the day than I used to. Before, it was coffee and laptop each morning, and even if I intended to add to a story's word count, I often drifted online, checking weather, facebook, twitter, favorite blogs, etc. 

6-Not watching TV

I haven't watched TV for fifteen years. I have a couple dozen DVDs that I can watch on my "old" laptop, and I can view movies on my Kindle Fire. But most of the time, if I have a free evening at home, I'd rather read. The TV is gone now--given away, leaving space for my writing reference books. I get my news online, and intentionally limit this very strictly. 

Do you have thoughts to share on the topic of unplugging? I'd enjoy hearing them!


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