I believe the key to a creative life is having the ability to observe humanity and to capture it, to illuminate it in some way. How do we do this? How do we expand our ability to observe? I think we have to step back from society’s push to constantly entertain ourselves, and instead, allow ourselves to be bored. We need to put down our devices for a segment of the day in order to let our minds drift.
Having said that, I’m as guilty as anyone. My fingers itch for the phone and I think I’ll just take a little peek, get my fix. Sometimes I pick up the phone during stoplights for a quick tweet or even worse, as much as I vow to leave my phone alone when I’m with my kids, I find myself checking my email while I’m pushing one of them on the swings. (Is anything as boring as swing pushing?) I see the need to disconnect from the world on my phone and to connect with the world right in front of me, but it’s a battle I fight every day.
An article in the New York Times this morning reported that motorist-related deaths in NYC have gone up by 23% in the last year. This was attributed to distracted walking and distracted driving. In other words, we are dying because we’re texting/tweeting while walking and driving. Our devices are causing our deaths, which is nothing new and no big surprise, for sure, but it made me think about what else we are losing. We are losing our ability to live in the present and this ability is very tied to our creativity.
Nothing is more creative for me than walking in New York City. I usually keep my phone in my pocket during these walks. I watch all the people and I see their little ticks and think about their lives. I imagine what their homes look like, what they do for fun and what odd things they do when no one is looking. Often they’re gazing down at their phones while I’m staring at them. (You got a staring problem, lady? Yes, I do.) Then I write.
If I had my head down the whole time, texting or Facebooking or tweeting, I’d miss out. New York City is a magnet for creative people – artists, photographers, writers, painters – for a reason. You see so much humanity every day by walking around and noticing. With your head up. Cell phone in pocket.
We are so afraid of being bored, but that is just what we need. The brain searches for stimulation, searches, searches, and then bang, you see something that you might never have seen if you weren’t bored. You imagine something. You come up with the best story idea you’ve ever had.
Maybe at that stoplight, instead of getting in a quick tweet, I’d see an almost dead deer twitching, not yet road kill, but hooves still kicking a little, and that moment would enter some piece of writing, like a blog post, perhaps. Perhaps while I’m pushing my child on the swings, instead of checking email, I would see a bee land on her and flick it away at just the right moment and this moment of heroism would enter a piece of writing. And, as another plus, my kid wouldn’t get stung.