The last time I posted to the blog was New Year’s Day and no I haven’t been suffering from a hangover that long. I was actually suffering from a really persistent cold for the first few weeks of the year which also stopped me going out on New Year’s Eve and this left me feeling bunged-up both physically and creatively.
Colds and the like cause my brain to seize up too, it just wants to watch stuff on TV, coming out in sympathy with the rest of my body saying “look, we’re busy getting rid of this infection you were daft enough to inhale, go watch some QI”. Anything that isn’t particularly taxing, basically.
Since then however the impulse to write has eluded me and thanks to an article by Mikael Cho on Lifehacker I’ve found out why. It’s something I’ve thought about before but also didn’t get around to writing about – information overload.
This blog should have quite a narrow remit, it’s about how we cope with modern life; how technology affects us in positive and negative ways; behaviours particular to the 21st century and other stuff about life in
2013 2014. However, instead of thinking about issues to write about I scour blogs and news sites for things that are relevant, or rather I should do, and it shouldn’t take too long to do, an hour a day should be enough time to skim a few blogs and the news, then move on to the WordPress reader and read posts from the blogs I follow.
I don’t though because I procrastinate, and I do that because I’m afraid of having too much information coming at me. As the Lifehacker article points out this stream of information actually blocks your brain from getting into the creative mood and formulating an article. This is why I’d sit down and find that I couldn’t think of anything to write.
I should have known this simply by comparing today to the last time I wrote a complete novel. It was the summer of 2000 – yes, Two Thousand. I wrote the book in six months, writing on Sunday mornings, and whenever the mood took me. There was no internet available to me and only five TV channels. Research for the book took place at the local library where I read travel books on Italy to get a feel for the locations. The important thing was that it was the only thing I was doing, I could let my brain focus on one subject, one story, I had no other stories arriving by the hour vying for attention, taking my attention away.
Between news reader apps, Facebook, Twitter etc we are confronted with a constant flow of words and pictures that have to be rapidly consumed and forgotten else you end up with a backlog that more resembles a tidal wave. You then have the choice of either taking a week off work to catch up (why do you think I’m writing this on a Wednesday morning two days after my birthday) or just taking a deep breath and deleting/throwing out everything you haven’t read (remembers big stack of magazines with “read later” articles hidden behind the sofa).
I’d already started to limit what information I’d add to my future articles notes, defining the scope of what I want to write about, bringing me back to the one story in effect, and as the Lifehacker article says this is an important step.
Clutter is both physical and mental, both affect how you live your life, the important thing is not to let it affect you negatively.