I realized last night that I haven’t played my piano keyboard in about 5 weeks. 5 WEEKS? That, for me, is almost unheard of–at least, when you take into account that I used to spend up to two hours a DAY playing piano down in the basement. Even when I had video games and schoolwork to take care of, even when I was at my busiest in college, I always found time to play my music, or to write poetry, or do other creative things. What’s changed?
I can point to one thing: the Internet. Now that there’s a constant source of passive entertainment in my room (even while I’m lying or sitting in bed!), I don’t have to go far for mental stimulation. I don’t even have to lift a finger to create anything if I don’t absolutely need to. And, increasingly, I find that the urgent need to create is somehow slipping away.
Why This is a HUGE Problem–And More Widespread Than It Seems
For me, a prolific creator for most of my life up until this point, this is a radical mindset shift, and I know I’m not the only creative person suffering it. The Internet provides us with endless resources to fuel our creativity, but it also provides a handy time sink–it gives us carte blanche to while away just as many countless hours clicking things on a screen for no purpose other than a high score and/or a sense of accomplishment.
Unfortunately, that random Internet time doesn’t often lead to creativity boosts, unless your brain just really needs a gaming or browsing break. These days, for me, Internet time becomes simply “lost time,” time in which my brain still has to work at reading or analyzing, but rarely has anything concrete to show for it. And by the time I’m finally done puttering around on the Internet, I’m far too mentally tired to be creative. That is the most dangerous symptom of all.
I see this happening not only to me, but to some of my creative friends, too–we’re all suffering from what looks like “Internet fatigue,” not having the mental energy to do much beyond surf just one more website, take just one more online quiz, etc. Have you felt it, too?
A Simple Solution
I’m not recommending that we all just stop using Internet for the rest of our lives, however. Not only does our work often depend on Internet, but our creative lives are now taking place on the Internet more frequently than not. The Internet is great, but, as I’ve discovered, one can easily “overdose” on it and end up less creative than ever.
We creative folk have to reclaim at least some time for our brains to be JUST OURS–for our thoughts and ideas alone to be uppermost in our minds, rather than the blended remnants of today’s headlines/scandals, DIY ideas, status updates, etc. That’s the way we get back our creative juices…that, and specifically carving out time to do so.
So, how to reclaim productive creative time from the Internet? Here are some tips I’m putting into practice:
- Turn your wireless connectivity off on your computer if you have to use your computer for creative purposes (such as writing).
- If your creative process does not need the computer, turn off the computer entirely, or set it to do an anti-virus/anti-spyware scan–something that precludes you from getting back on it.
- If you usually use your computer for creative work, try creating without it, using pen and paper when you need it for notations.
- Turn off your smartphone or set it to Airplane Mode while you’re creating, too. Better yet, leave it in another room where you won’t be tempted to check it.
- If you typically use a certain room for Internet, go to another room to create–sometimes, just the change of visual scenery (even if it’s still your house) will trigger your brain to behave differently.
What other ways can you think of to rescue your own creativity from Internet fatigue? Tell me in the comments!