Sunday, June 14, 2015

Against the Internet: A Writer’s Manifesto

One of the best things about being at the Art Farm is the lack of internet. Some of the buildings have it, but some of them don’t. Thankfully, my studio is sans wi-fi. 

I’m a writer. This means that a lot of my time is spent writing. Some of that writing is done by hand in my notebook, but the bulk of it is done on this here computational machine. This means that, when given the opportunity, I often find myself scrolling through Buzzfeed articles when all I wanted to do was check what year the Berlin Wall fell down. One thing leads to another and next thing you know, you’ve wasted much time and mental energy on useless crap.

The internet is the boob tube of our generation. I grew up with parents who firmly believed that television rots your brain (scientists have proven this to be true...) so I never developed the habit of watching television. On the other hand, the internet provides another opportunity for mindlessness, one that I indulge in quite often.

I don’t freak out in internet-free zones. In fact, I look forward to these experiences because they provide freedom from this drug that so many of us abuse without fully understanding the hold it has on us. But it’s an ongoing practice to bring that laissez-faire attitude towards the internet when I actually have it at my fingertips.

Back to the Art Farm. Without the constant pull of information and connection, both useful and useless, I am forced to resort to other things to distract me, such as doodling, reading, or messing around with my hula hoop. When I allow my mind to wander freely without the constant stimulation of the internet, I am “staying in the room.” I have been hearing this a lot recently from other writers and artists: stay in the room, they say. They mean – with your work. It’s going to be frustrating and it’s going to be scary and you’re going to want to give up. But the ones who stay are the ones who make it. I intend to be one of those writers who make it. (Whatever that means!)

Creating art is like becoming a scuba diver. You gear up and you dive in. It takes a lot of time to get down there, to get acclimated to this different underwater world. You’re got to stabilize yourself on the way down. You breathe differently down there. You move differently, too.

Writers should understand that we are deep sea divers; we descend into this other world where different rules apply. Once we’re down there, we want to make the best of it and see as much as we can, right? Of course, we must be mindful of our oxygen tank, so we do maintain a hold on the world above the water, but we must also allow ourselves to get lost in it.

Going online when you are creating art is like a diver surfacing too fast. It’s dangerous for them, and for us, too. Entering the vastly stimulating online world rips us from the world we are creating on the page (or on the canvas). We lose our flow. It takes a lot of energy and focus to descend into that sacred place of creation, and we should honor that process by not throwing it away so quickly.

In a world without constant access to the internet, the World Wide Web can return to its original function as a tool. Whenever I think of something I need to do online, whether it be to send an email or look up flight prices to Tahiti, I write it down in my agenda. The next time I get internet access, I set a limited time that I will be online. Then, I go through my list of tasks and get them done, one by one. Of course, I might find myself waylaid by a passing celebrity news story, but I will honor the time limit that I have set. If there are articles I want to read or stories that intrigue me while I’m online, I might save them to my computer or keep the tab open so that I can read it when I’m no longer connected to the internet.

Cultivating a space without the bombardment of the internet allows for a deeper kind of concentration to happen. You can dive deeper into your work because you don’t have this buoy keeping you on the surface. You are more committed to your creation than to anything else at that moment, and that is crucial. The artist must completely give in to their art; otherwise, no one else will. 

pictures from our recent Art Farm Walk / Open Studios!

The Victorian or "Icky Vicky"
The TeaHouse

The Floating Barn