A huge amount of our creative energy is spent every day cultivating our digital lives for the benefit of our followers. The most anybody ever gets to see is the highlights. Constant access to social media means that we are more available than ever. We wear productivity as a badge of honour, but does this high-intensity living equate to quality of life? The compulsion to keep up with the rest of the world may be almost irresistible, but there's a lot to be said for slowing down.
Social media can provide creative individuals with new ways to collaborate and find inspiration, pushing the boundaries of more traditional artistic practices. However, there is a reason why many authors will seclude themselves to an extent whilst writing. The Internet removes us from ourselves and places us in a world of infinite possibilities, and infinite distractions. Stepping back from digital technology appears to be integral to reclaiming a fulfilling creative life.
Finding space for ourselves is crucial if we are to achieve our creative goals. Small changes to routines, like writing longhand, can significantly impact how connected we feel to our work. In the rush of creativity, we need to be honest with ourselves about realistic boundaries, and what we need in order to work effectively. Novelty fuels the creative urge, but routine is what keeps the words flowing. Practices such as Morning Pages, popularised by Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way help creative people to stay in touch with the benefits of writing on paper rather than on screen.
Contemporary champions for the practice of creativity, such as Elizabeth Gilbert, advocate for time to be spent filling the creative well. It is impossible to produce ceaselessly and create quality content. When your wages depend on your creativity, you need to ensure a constant flow. Later, when the work is done, it is important to step away. Peter de Vries said: “I write when I am inspired, and I see to it that I am inspired at nine o’clock every morning.” Amidst the intensity of modern life, there needs to be space for rest and reflection, lest we forget that we are first and foremost human beings.
Meeting deadlines might mean that we are more efficient, but at what cost? There are ways to achieve creatively without running ourselves into the ground. Having a writing routine with built in breaks, or using the Pomodoro method – structured periods of activity and rest – can ensure that we take time for ourselves whilst still meeting our goals. One advantage of such structured breaks is that we are less likely to end up distracted by social media.
It’s often the case that the time we claim for ourselves in this age of 24/7 availability seems to be a selection of Instagram-worthy moments. Creative freedom can also be found in the moments that we don’t rush to capture. When the day’s creative work is done, taking time to do something offline and private reminds us of the possibilities beyond modern technology. In short, curating our lives might be the first instinct, but allowing ourselves to create our lives is infinitely more valuable. Taking time to fill the creative well means that we are ultimately more at peace with ourselves and our place in the world.
Words: Casey Bottono
Copy edited by Elena Stanciu