Sometimes we need to be reminded of the basic, common-sense things. I know I do.
I subscribe to a site called Nerd Fitness. Essentially, they’re a site that helps ordinary, everyday people get fit and stay fit by equating life to a video game. No, that doesn’t mean they’re not facing reality. What it means is they’ve happened onto a good gimmick to promote fitness. It’s even in their tagline: Level up your life, every single day. They do this with a holistic approach that includes diet and lifestyle as well as exercise.
Not only do they have an extensive website with lots of helpful videos and articles, they also send out motivational emails (by subscription, which I highly recommend) at fairly regular intervals (I’ve never gauged what that interval is), and it was the most recent one I received that is the subject of this post.
The email was based on the idea presented in a movie called Limitless (which I’ve never seen): A down-on-his-luck writer takes a pill that gives him unlimited brain power. He writes a book in four days, learns new languages, stops smoking, loses weight…basically, he’s able to tap into the 80% of his brain we don’t use.
The idea behind the Nerd Fitness post is to find a way to do this in practical, real-life terms: not necessarily tap into the unused portion, but make more efficient use of the part we do utilize.
The first recommendation they made that stood out to me was to stop multitasking. To me, this is a no-brainer for one simple reason: we can’t do it. Oh, we like to claim we’re multitasking, but we’re not. In reality, we’re wasting time jumping back and forth between two or more tasks, when we could be getting each task done quicker if we’d concentrate on one at a time. And I can tell you as an IT guy, computers don’t multitask either. They simply switch back and forth so fast it just seems like they’re multitasking. And then we complain when we’ve got forty programs open, we’re watching videos and looking at pictures, and we’re surfing the Net and suddenly the computer slows down. Well, duh. Get a clue. As we IT guys like to say, the problem is with the ID-10-T (think about it; I’ll get back to you).
So: concentrate on one thing at a time.
The next thing that stood out to me was when he starts talking about our obsession with viewing emails, and Facebook statuses (statusi?), what’s been posted on Pinterest, who’s tweeted what.
Leave it alone. Close your browser unless you’ve got research for your current (or forthcoming) project up there. Log out of Facebook, shut down your email—and that includes getting rid of that annoying alert tone that lets you know you’ve just gotten more spam—do whatever it takes to shut the world out so you can concentrate on one thing: writing your friggin book.
Now, let’s get one thing straight: (I know, I’m using a lot of colons in this post) writing your friggin book might mean you’re researching, not actually keying in word count. Let’s all pause for a moment and acknowledge that writing a book doesn’t always mean you’re adding to the manuscript.
But we also have to acknowledge that research is a tricky thing. In my early days of learning the internet, I soon found out I had to discipline myself severely when researching. The thing with the internet is that there’s too much information out there, and you can find yourself running down rabbit trails far from your starting point—and many times those trails end somewhere with someone wanting you to send them some money for that important bit of info you so desperately need.
On the other hand, too much discipline in your research can mean missing something that comes entirely out of left field and keeps you from adding something really interesting as a twist, because you didn’t know it.
You have to walk a fine line.
But that’s a rabbit trail in itself, as far as this post is concerned. What I’m writing about—as the title should suggest—is our plethora of electronic distractions. It’s called ADOS: Attention Deficit—Ooo Shiny (or if you’re not a Firefly fan—and why on Earth aren’t you?—Ooo Squirrel!)!
I’m guilty of it too. I’ve been letting all kinds of things get between me and my work: movies, shows, books (though I argue wholeheartedly that the last item is also necessary in the life of a writer, but that’s another post), and just life in general. I don’t have cable, but I do have game consoles and, worse, a smartphone. As I write this, I’m also wondering how to make a compromise on that one. I need it to do my research, and it often gets used that way. I also need it to keep in touch with my company, as well as keeping in touch with my family. I can’t see it being practical to just shut it off.
On the other hand, I need to discipline myself, just as someone who has regular internet needs to. I should ignore the Facebook tile (I have a Windows phone) that’s telling me I have notifications. I need to stop staying up to date on status, um, updates. I need to stop checking my emails every time the alert sounds.
In other words, I need to practice what I was preaching earlier in this post.
So for those of you sitting around going, “I’ve always wanted to write a book. I just never can find the time,” there’s a solution: turn of your TV (most of that stuff is worthless anyway. I mean, c’mon, how many more stupid “reality” shows do we need?), ignore Facebook/Pinterest/Twitter/ad nauseum, stop texting all the time (especially when you’re driving, you idiots!), and sit down at a computer or with pen and paper and WRITE!!!! Of course you can’t write that book you claim you’re dreaming of writing if you’re doing your best to wear a groove in your couch/easy chair. Television—as mindless as it is—ain’t gonna write that book for you. I think you’ll find that, if you’ll just stop obsessing about Shark Week or the latest episode of insert favorite show(s) here, you’ll find you have lots of time to write. And maybe have time left over to, I don’t know, spend with family?
Just a thought.