I'm generally not the type of person to say things like "OMG, the internet is positively ruining your life and your happiness and you need an internet and social media detox like ASAP." I think that instead of proclaiming the wonders of the "good old days" when people were less distracted (ie: they read the newspaper on public transit instead of cell phones, also a whole bloody newspaper is actually a much better way of hiding yourself from everyone else on public transit than a phone is) we need to just adapt to the times we live in and try to keep the "everything in moderation" idea in mind. The age of the internet, social media, and powerful technology always at our fingertips is not going away, so learn to work with it instead of becoming a Luddite.
Disclaimer aside, I had a lovely hour and a half of almost complete disconnection earlier this evening. My cell phone and laptop battery ran dead at approximately the same time. My initial plan was to go climb into bed, plug both devices in and get another hour or two of work done today. But when I came downstairs to my apartment I saw all the Christmas decorations. And I suddenly didn't want to sit in my bedroom, which is decidedly lacking in Christmas decor (perhaps if we'd spread the decor around into other rooms besides the kitchen and living room it would be less Christmas puke-y, whatever, I love my overwhelming overdone Christmas decor this year). So, plugged in and dumped the laptop and cell phone, and flounced off to the pretty coloured lights and my couch with my notebook and pen. I pulled up a youtube video of "snow falling jazz" with scenes of snow falling and chill jazz, and parked myself on the couch.
I spent a lovely hour and a half writing, putting pen to paper, making my brain work the only way I know how. I also practiced a bit of a writing technique that I learned about from PublicationCoach, Daphne Gray-Grant, in her post Why you should be a copy-cat. I've been wanting to try this technique for a while because I'm curious, and I'm also pretty sure it works. I know that reading the writing of a few favourite authors has changed my approach to photography, so why wouldn't this concept, of copying, but not in the sense of plagiarism, also work to improve my writing?
So, I picked up one of my favourite books, The Old Ways by Robert Macfarlane (the fact that it also happened to be the favourite book in closest proximity to me definitely has nothing to do with the choice) and I proceeded to copy, by hand, in my messy cursive, the first page and a half of the book into my notebook.
It was a fascinating practice. I've read this book about 4 times now, in ebook and audiobook format. I love this book. Despite it being in close proximity to me which made it easy to pick up tonight, it is truly one of my favourite books. Copying out the words phrase-by-phrase, 3-5 at a time, was intriguing.
There was a couple of things that stood out to me:
It forced me to slow down and really pay attention to each sentence.
I felt like I understood the sentences better.
The visuals in my imagination were stronger, more complete, and much more vivid.
That last one was really fascinating to me. It reminds me of the difference between being the driver in a vehicle and being a passenger. I feel like I take in a fair bit of scenery and my surroundings when I am the driver, but then when I ride along as a passenger on a familiar route I am always surprised to notice how many details I've not noticed before. Things that you really don't have time to pay attention to when you're the driver. Like a standout colour on the front door of a house, or the colour of leaves turning on trees, or the views across fields, or the shapes or colour variances of land or houses or trees or flowers.
I felt like a passenger instead of the driver as I copied the words out. I gained a deeper appreciation for each scene described and the level of detail I was able to bring to life in my imagination.
So I'm going to try this practice more. In an effort to understand my favourite works and authors better, and also in hopes of internalizing some of their knowledge and wordsmith skills.