What I Learned from a Technology Fast
Technology is certainly a gift to our society today, and I am grateful for it. But I was certainly surprised at how difficult it was for me to not want my phone or to watch Netflix within a 24 hour span this weekend. As part of a class assignment, on Saturday I spent the entire day on a “Silent Retreat,” a time in which I didn’t talk to anyone or use technology. As a part of the day, we were also asked to spend some time thinking about our calling and vocation (which is the topic of the class). As writing is a significant part of my life calling, I used a portion of my day to reflect on writing in general, my identity as a writer, and the current state of my amateur “career” as an author.
Without my phone around for me to check every few minutes or distract me with notifications, I ended up with way less time “wasted” by pointless Google searches and YouTube or Netflix binges, and way more time spent with focused energy. Though a relaxing day, by the end I felt productive. Plus, I reconnected with my writing. For about the past two years, I haven’t taken my writing as seriously as I used to before college. Saturday allowed me time to dig deep as to why I love writing, what I hope to accomplish with my career, and how I can act in the immediate future (as early as May, or sometime this summer) to advance myself as a writer. I organized my thoughts, clarified my goals and vision, and found peace with choosing patience. In considering my vocation as an author in combination with my hopes for working in higher education and student affairs, I recognized that I will face a longer road in producing quality work, improving myself as a writer, and getting published simply because I will have less time in my days to devote to the craft. Because of this, I see the value of writing with patience and being okay with how long it may take me to finish a draft, develop a character or world, or editing a work. I’m in no rush. However, I am determined to take advantage of time in my day unconstrained by the pressures of school (especially this summer), and I see the importance of being disciplined as a writer. If I am not focused or committed to my writing, novels simply won’t happen.
Saturday showed me that technology’s increasing distractions in my life tend to limit my focus and interfere with my discipline as a writer. Granted, my responsibilities as a student and my current job as a resident assistant are also taxing and leave me with limited energy to devote to writing, so it is not just technology causing my decline in writing. However, I do want to limit my phone and Netflix/YouTube usage, carve out intentional internet-free, phone-less time to invest in writing (particularly on the weekends and during the summer, when I usually have no excuse for my lack of writing productivity), and even repeat these silent retreat days every once in a while. I believe these practices will be crucial for me to build back up the discipline in my writing that I used to have during high school and my first year of college. If I want to be a published fiction author, I have to commit to practicing writing on a consistent basis.
I share all of this partially because I want to share how my life affects my writing and this exercise for class certainly impacted the way I view myself as an author and my writing goals. Also, I would encourage anyone who reads this to try their own technology fast and see what kind of clarity you might receive. Perhaps it will be as simple as revealing how you spend your time; maybe it will be more spiritually-focused for you. It was both for me. In any case, I hope that if you do attempt your own silent retreat, you will find it just as eye-opening as I did.