Tuesday, June 16, 2015

How the NOISE in Your Life is SABOTAGING your WRITING LIFE: And how to FIX IT

You start the day with a beep from your phone. Next thing you know it, your mom friend is texting you asking if you want to meet at the local park this afternoon.

You begin reading your Bible and try spending a little time in prayer only to be interrupted by your son's insistent whisper-shouts and his cold feet on your legs.

So you get up and renuke the coffee sitting in the coffeepot, why waste it?

Time for writing, but wait first you'd better check your mail to see if that superstar agent of yours has written back to you about your submission. No, she hasn't, but you do have a note about the GENESIS contest.

Hmmm...maybe you should forego your writing plans for the day and get an entry ready for that contest instead. All the writers you know are entering it.

But first you'd better check a few blogs to get some more advice about how to write that pesky cover letter.

Just a few minutes later, it couldn't have been more than 15 (your social media limit), your kids are whining about lunch. But you just fed them oatmeal a few minutes ago. Argh, you look on your screen and see its 11:30. Then you look at your screen. "Chapter Four."

You throw some ham sandwiches with mustard on whole wheat bread onto their favorite holiday plates along with apple slices. Maybe you should eat something, too. Coffee wasn't much of a breakfast.

Often we say busy has sabotaged our writing lives, but all too often I think the culprit is loud.

Beeping, buzzing, dinging technology.

In the car, we often blare our favorite music or our favorite Christian podcast.

Instead of the joyful noise of children and the social hum of fellowship, all too often the loud in our lives is carried in our pockets.

Thoreau and other great authors found great solace in quiet communion with nature.

If Susanna Wesley could silence the din of twelve noisy children by placing her apron over her head and spending time with the Lord we can sure silence noise of our own making far less joy-enhancing than the shouts of children.

Beethoven and other music artists created great works while hearing impaired. Perhaps his deafness not only sharpened his other senses but the world of forced quiet he was born into was a creative catalyst for works that are masterpieces many generations later.

Its obvious that the constant whir of today's technology hurts our communion with God as well as hindering our creativity. How can we hear from the Lord with so many distractions at hand all the time. How do we pray without ceasing when cell phones are buzzing and computers beeping?

How can we think at all, let alone the kind of sustained quiet creativity that leads to good writing.

Guess what: you can't sit at your desk and shut down the loud automatically. Noise and distraction have been following you all day and deciding to write won't quiet them. You wonder why you struggle with blank page syndrome, why your words don't seem to be flowing in a coherent manner.

So what can you do to bring the quiet back into your life and increase both the quality and quantity of your writing?

1) Its all about how you start your day.

Those first few minutes set the tone for your whole day. Maybe you have a newborn or are in another stage of life where you can't seem to get quiet time first thing. Perhaps your kids hear any little noise and spring down the stairs. Some of us don't think clearly immediately on waking.

Here are my weapons of choice: Every morning I play a podcast called Daily Audio Bible before I even get out of bed. Listening to the Bible first thing prepares my mind though I'm not quite awake enough for indepth Bible study. I think of it as putting on my armour before I even get out of bed and you'd better believe there is spiritual warfare on our writing callings.

Next I like to pray in the shower for a few minutes and listen to some praise music while I drink my coffee.

2) Boredom is not your enemy.

I heard a homeschooling speaker discussing how we fear our children being bored and so create all manner of things for them to do, yet boredom often leads to the most creative ventures. Her children created homes from refrigerator boxes, science experiments from the kitchen, and homemade books. I know much of my childhood writing was fueled by boredom. Don't be afraid to be bored. Sit in the quiet for fifteen minutes a day, even if it drives you nuts at first. Just be.

3) Take a virtual vacation.

I know several Alley Cats have done this and it has been fruitful in their writing life. Its hard to disconnect. Maybe start with a day a week or cutting back your time to a fifteen minute chunk a day. Stick with your limits. Turn your phone off and let it go to voicemail for a little bit each day. Don't let the urgent take away from the important.

4) Books are a great way to recapture the quiet.

Reading on a screen by its very nature distracts us. Studies have shown that readers retain less and find less satisfaction based on format alone. I used to be a Kindle type of gal, but have found I enjoy reading far more when I have the full sensory experience. The smell of the pages (especially old books), the feel of ricepaper and the substance of a book in my hand. Read a variety, read daily. Find external and internal quiet so you can read. The more time I spend reading the more I enjoy writing. Don't just read fiction. Read books that make you think of great ideas, books that stimulate your mind.

5) Take a notebook everywhere with you.

When you begin to look for quiet, everything can bean inspiration. When walking in nature, write down what you see. People gaze at the mall. Find ideas for characters sitting next to you in the church pew. Someone in my family has a notebook tattooed on their arm, I guess as a reminder to write.

6) See where you can add silence.

Do you listen to music in the car? Turn the radio off. Do you watch TV right before bed? Maybe DVR your show and watch it a bit earlier so you have creative wind down time. Studies have shown we should be turning off all media at least a half an hour before bed to avoid insomnia and disruptive sleep. Do you check facebook on your lunch break? How about sitting outside with a book or a notebook instead.

7) Question what you do: Is it necessary or am I doing it because someone else does?

How much of what we do on social media is actually helping us in our careers? Do we think we need to always be increasing followers? Yes, we are building a platform, but as one Christian author says often as unpublished writers we should be spending far less time on social media. Are there things you can remove from your day or delegate to someone else in order to bring more quiet into your life?

What has helped you to build silence and margin in your life? Do you have any good tips for managing social media, instead of letting it manage you?

Julia is a freelance writer and reviewer for LIBRARY JOURNAL and a blogger at the site WONDERFULLY WOVEN. She lives in central Virginia, where she finds inspiration in reading aloud to her children, snuggling her cats, drinking a cup of tea with her husband, and chasing fireflies at night.


Angie Dicken said...

Hey Julia!! This is something I struggle with so much!!! Ack! I sat down yesterday and made a social media schedule. What days and times and platforms I will commit to posting... I have already found a little bit of relief not feeling like I am "missing opportunities", but have a set time to look toward and commit to real life in between. It is kinda like doing your chores but more fun than that.;) great post!

kaybee said...

Julia, this is so true. We do better work when we can listen to what God is trying to tell us.
Kathy Bailey

Ashley Clark said...

LOVE this, Jules! Insightful as always!

Julia M. Reffner said...


Me, too! You are inspirational to me when I've seen you take the media breaks and get great output! The idea of a schedule sounds like a good one, I need to look into inputting that.


Thank you!


So true!

Jacqueline Howett said...

This morning, I placed everything on my schedule for today, to do next week. As much as it is shouting to be done, nothing is that urgent. I just wanted to feel that quiet time. And, I managed to read a little, outside.

Nice choise of art. :)

Jacqueline Howett said...

I mean choice. LOL.