It's official. Technology has taken over the world. We are hooked 24/7.
If you're not tapping away on your laptop - like I'm doing right now - your face is glued to your phone or your smart watch, or you're glaring at a huge screen. Whether that's your home computer or your TV, it doesn't matter. You probably need to see the eye doctor because your eyes are scratchy and leaking, and you don't want to admit it.
What is worse, your mind has become a reflection of what you consume, and what you consume is mindless listicles and how-to advice. No original thought!
It's normal to feel overwhelmed. I know it's been hard for me to imagine an existence devoid of checking twitter every hour or consuming the same content again and again. It's hard to imagine using my actual hand to write and understanding what I had written or use my hands for anything other than typing (carpal tunnel syndrome anyone?).
I'll tell you what though. This is why people all over the world are talking about disconnecting, and if they're not talking about it, they are actually doing it.
Why do you think coloring is trendy? I mean, why would adults choose to revert back to childhood? And why is everyone obsessed with print books and magazines all of a sudden? Why do modern creatives suddenly need to go on retreats in Nature?
And when it comes to creative people whose well-being and wealth both come from creative endeavors, there can be no such feelings. From time immemorial creatives have been CONNECTED to Nature, the muses, and one another. You can't take the creative out of the world because when you do, you get an empty, exhausted shell.
And you know it's true because the more you check your social media accounts and the more emails you answer, the more spent you feel and the more uninspired you become. The screen is now a false friend and your life devoid of spontaneity.
Which is why I have compiled a list of 10 ways to disconnect for modern creatives, especially those who feel overwhelmed by the media. (And its bullsh*t.)
Way 1: Retreats
The idea of going to artist retreats is as old as creativity, but have you tried a mini-creative break for yourself or actually organizing one for your friends? I have a friend who actually disconnects by checking into a hotel for a week. She brings what's necessary, and the Internet is not. (The Creative Retreat workbook, however, would be helpful.)
You can even go to the mountains! Nature always helps us to recalibrate, no matter how screwed up we feel inside.
You can also organize a cheap mastermind retreat for your biz besties! A while ago, one of my favorite multipassionate girlbosses published an article about Why You Should DIY a Creative Mastermind Retreat, and the guide is now free in her library of awesome.
Whether you retreat alone or with friends, it's going to be EPIC.
Way 2: Print Magazines
I've been enjoying print magazines lately.
They not only engage your basic senses but they even engage your imagination as well. After reading a bunch of inspiring stories or articles, I find myself happily brainstorming my own ideas and projects. And if I'm not inspired, I'm relaxed because I hadn't spent my time leaking in front of a computer. Ahem.
(Plus I enjoy destroying them with the help of stickies and markers.)
So far I've enjoyed Offscreen (issue 15), Oh Comely (the adventure issue), The Great Discontent, and 99u (most issues). Next on my list: Dumbo Feather, Uppercase, and Flow magazine. Share some of your favorite magazines in the comments!
Way 3: Podcasts
I'm not talking about the business-related ones, but the ones for human beings.
Just listen to two - or more - people talk about what you love or what they love. Maybe it's books or design or whatever, but for the love of everything creative and holy, don't listen to yet another podcast where people discuss how they hustle 24/7 or hacked their way into greatness.
Raw and real podcasts, on the other hand, will wake you up from your existential slumber, and I heartily recommend the following podcasts if you're tired of 'the usual':
- Strangers by Lea Thau is a podcast that collects true stories from strangers.
- The Moth Radio is another way to listen to people tell their stories live.
- Real Talk Radio with Nicole Antoinette is a rare kind of podcast where nobody's selling you anything but just being human. She talks to people from all fields of life.
- Sounds Good podcast by Branden Harvey is a breath of fresh air because he's so positive and the people he interviews are so interesting. Tune in.
- Make It Happen goes further than any other podcast - into the depths of humanity, personality, and even spirituality. Jen Carrington is a 'soulful entrepreneur' who is not afraid to be honest and real. It's conversations rather than interviews.
- Couragemakers is fun because the host Meg Kissack favors rebels like me!!!
- For more refreshing podcasts, see this curation and this curation.
Way 4: Storytelling
Stories are in our genes. They're the way we communicate. And they're the ONLY thing I have found to be useful in times when I'm completely burnt out. Maybe you have found a better cure, and if you have tell me about it, but since I'm a writer at heart, this is what works best for me.
So where do we find stories in this world of content where everything's designed to sell?!
The curator in me already knows the answer.
- The Moth is where you can watch and listen to stories told live.
- The Longform is another place where you can find stories - long ones.
- Creative magazines are much cleaner than blogs, therefore have more stories.
- Matter, Human Parts, and the Coffeelicious are the Medium publications most likely to provide quality stories. Everything else is too crammed.
- Check the New Yorker archive and especially their fiction section.
- Thought Catalog used to be a respectable source of humanity, but right now it has too many listicles for my taste. Check it out though.
Now relax and read some stories! Print them out even, to disconnect fully.
Way 5: Letter Writing
Yes, I know, this is not technically done anymore...
So what? It didn't stop Brandon Doman from collecting stories from strangers or Hannah Brencher from giving love letters for strangers and starting the We Need More Love Letters movement. If you love something and truly miss something from the past, you're allowed to bring it back.
When I was little, I used to write at least 5 letters every day and get the same amount back in the post. I'm not kidding, that was every day. I may have done it because there was no Internet yet, but looking back, these were the best times. It's one thing to get an email with a bunch of soulless attachments and quite another to get a bunch of hand-crafted letters with photos and other carefully picked or made goodies in them. To see the person's hand-writing and feel their love through the carefully-picked stationery. (:
You can feel that again. Just start your own letter-writing project or guerrilla style it like Hannah did. The world needs more letters, don't you think?
Way 6: Conversations
A few months ago I did something called "Conversations with Creatives." It ended up getting people's attention and I talked to a lot of creative rebels about all kinds of creative pursuits. Thing is, conversations don't take you where you normally go. They take you further.
During those conversations I took notes as if I were consulting with a coach or taking lessons! Except my notes were all about inspiration and what I could write about next. These people were inspiring me to try new things, write about new things, and just be happy with what I had. I've never gotten that effect from coaches or classes, so... something to think about.
While you had only your ideas and experiences to draw examples from, now you have twice as many ideas and experiences, and the conversation starts to flow, the ideas start multiplying, and before you know it, you're inspired! To try something new, to give that strange project another try, to talk with some more real humans... and on it goes.
So why not try it? Schedule one call every day for the next couple of weeks. You may just come out of it enlightened, just like it happened for Megan Gebhart who decided to talk to one person every day for 52 days. She even wrote a book about it!
Way 7: Arts & Crafts
People have been doing all kinds of crazy creative stuff, according to Pinterest. As soon as you type "creative project" in Pinterest or even on Youtube, you find so many amazing things, your head might explode and you may never have free time again.
So far I've discovered Alcohol Ink Tiles, Art Journaling, guerrilla art, slam poetry, lomography, & Inkodye (a.k.a. making your clothes or linens more artsy by imprinting household objects or photos on them). And this is just grazing the surface! Luckily, there are creatives who have gone deeper, like iHanna and Amanda Howell.
You can turn anything into a creative project if you let your imagination fly.
Way 8: Van Life
I learned about #VanLife from Amanda Sandlin.
Van life is what it sounds - you travel with and live out of a van. I mean, when I was in the States for my summer work program, I actually dreamed about these cute band guys asking me to travel the world with them as they tour, but it never happened...
Van life is not about dreaming, though, it's about ACTION. It's about saving up some money or selling your house or whatever it takes to get a van and get on the road. Jack Kerouac it. Obviously, everything crazy has its setbacks (especially when you do it alone), but if you want an adventure and a powerful recharge, this may be exactly what you need.
Way 9: Creative Journals
Not journals again! They've been everywhere lately.
But I truly believe that they can help us disconnect. Being so interactive and varied, some of them can truly take you to another - more creative - dimension.
My favorites include:
- Pick Me Up by Adam J Kurtz
- Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon
- Start Where You Are by Meera Lee Patel
- Any of Keri Smith's crazy journals
A creative journal is especially helpful if you're so burnt out that you can't even come up with things to draw or write or whatever it is you do. Creative journals aren't about producing anything, but about awakening your creative beast.
Way 10: Challenges
Any challenge that gets you out into the world is a winner in my book. For example, if you commit to taking a photo every day (365project) or writing every day (especially if you do it by hand or use a typewriter) or vlogging every day (not in the stay at home way, but in Casey Neistat's and Sara Dietschy's get out in the world way), you will achieve a new level of engagement with the world.
You, like me, are probably already exhibiting couch-potato signs and need to find a way to get your engagement levels up. (Unless you want to be scraped when you die.)
Creating something with your hands or learning a new skill that is not exclusively on the computer forces you to reconnect with your creative spirit, the thing that got you in this mess. You didn't dream of being a couch potato, so don't let it manifest.