Embed from Getty Images We’re surrounded by technology. Since you’re reading this online, you at least have a computer or tablet. If you’re like me, the cell phone is also nearby, sending out sounds to let you know who called, texted, or emailed.
Distraction is a problem when we feed on multiple streams of information. It’s like going through a cafeteria line. You’ve already got your entree, but those sides look good. And what about dessert? You pick up a coffee cup, but you’re thirsty so you grab a glass as well. By the time you reach the cashier, you’re stunned by how much is on your tray.
Really, you’re not going to consume all that, are you?
When we eat way too much, we feel unhappy with ourselves. What happens when we consume too much information? A different kind of overload, one that sucks up time. Hours which feel misspent. Wasted.
I’m always doing ten things at once. As I write this, five page tabs are open on my browser, along with three programs: Bean (my primary choice for word processing), MS OneNote (for note keeping), and Scapple (for mind mapping). How many tabs and programs are open on yours? Maybe you’re even streaming music to shut out distractions.
Few things could possibly break through all this chatter long enough for me to look up and look elsewhere.
But today, something does. A sound outside my window.
It’s one of the first days of true spring, not just calendar spring. The light coming in isn’t diffuse like winter, but strong enough to throw shadows on the floor. The sound that interrupts my internet immersion is repetitive — the same tones again and again. Loud and insistent. It’s a scolding parent, demanding I get out of my chair, go outside and play. The presence of this voice means that the weather is glorious, the sun is shining, and I will miss out on an opportunity whose passing I’ll come to regret.
That voice is birdsong.
You can browse blogs and websites showing faraway places and stunning landscapes, but they’re just pictures on a screen. Nothing compares to standing with your feet in the surf, looking out over the ocean, your hair stiff with salt spray, your ankles fighting the tug of the receding tide.
Writing is standing at the ocean’s edge. Reading is sitting inside, with tourist brochures in your lap or travel websites open in front of you.
The bird singing is the muse in all of us. It may lay dormant for a season, a year, a decade, or most of a lifetime. But some day, when conditions are right, it will begin to sing, and grow more insistent the longer we ignore it.
We learn over time to take only what we’ll actually eat at the cafeteria, because too much is a waste. We learn over time to budget our online activity because it’s easy to fritter hours away. We learn over time to get out of our homes, walk around the block or through a park, or sit under a tree because a break in our routine clears the mind.
This is the habit we need to learn with our writing. Distraction will always be there, but the muse won’t.
If you’re feeling the impulse to write, follow it, before it takes wing and leaves you behind.