What if emails and social media were like Owl Post?
The owls swoop in each morning at the same time. They deliver their letters and newspapers. We pet them and feed them, and off they go. For the most part, those are the day’s messages.
I’ve been limiting my communications to an hour each morning, and kept asking myself what is this like? It’s like Owl Post.
I’m obsessed with ideas – receiving them, working them out, sharing them.
I’m familiar with their feel, the warm energy that sparks in the inbox of my brain when they arrive. Technology tempts me to send them away again too quickly. No need for stamps and paper and traditional methods of publication that would slow me down. No need for owls!
An idea hits me, and before I’ve processed it, I’ve zapped it along to someone else, in my urgency to share. I’m learning that what’s more valuable is to hold that idea a little longer before passing it on. Anyone can have an idea. Art is what’s developed into expression.
In the morning, I itch to communicate.
The easy way to do this is through text messages and emails, but it’s distracting, pulling my attention in so many directions. It’s more productive to channel this desire to communicate into essay-writing first.
I’m learning to rekindle that old school notion of ‘I can’t wait to tell you!’. I could say right away, but I enjoy waiting for the right moment. Instead, I give my attention to my creativity, by closing communications until I’ve written first.
When I write an essay, I complete a thought through creation.
I’m not ‘just getting it off my chest’, but inscribing it in ink. This protects my friends from being ‘sounding boards’ because if you think about it, how offensive is it to be a sounding board? No human deserves that. Sometimes I talk through my ideas with my dog, but even she is not a sounding board. I can sense her appreciation for being updated on my day. (If she doesn’t feel like listening, she runs after a squirrel instead. It’s a pretty solid arrangement.).
In silence, I can explore a single idea more thoroughly.
I’ve shifted away from writing lists of tips. We know the tips. We’re not going to gain something from reading more tips.
Sometimes I seek a listicle in desperation. How do I make my home cosier? How do I treat a sore throat? With each swipe of the scroll, my shoulders tense and my brows narrow with indignation: but I know this already!
Instead, I explore, slowly and fully, one idea at a time. There’s no point in overwhelming you, me, or anyone with too much to implement and too little on how or why.
I’m grateful for the Internet, for the freedom to publish, and to meet readers.
In my head, though, it looks exactly like the one that Ralph Broke. It’s freedom, but it’s also chaos. Like any busy city, navigation of it requires extra attention. So I write first, offline, then guard my finished manuscript across the crowded streets to my personal publishing nook.
Sometimes I dream of Quitting Facebook, of shutting down the computer and canceling the wifi.
Attempting a physical boundary like this causes its own problems though – mainly frustration that the feeling hasn’t gone away. I find it more effective to internalise boundaries first, to understand why I want them and need them, before forcing them upon myself.
My current routine is to write every day, from 9-11am. After Elevensies, Screen Time un-greys my social media apps and I let the communication channel spread more widely for a concentrated hour. Email, text, and social media pretty much happen in that hour alone.
At first I relied too much on Screen Time to enforce these boundaries. I’ve learned that she’s more of an assistant, keeping me from seeing messages on accident. The enforcing is up to me.
No app will keep you away from apps. Only you can set those boundaries.
It’s like that week in Little Women when Marmee lets the girls do whatever they want, and they all end up cranky and Beth’s bird dies because no one fed him. They resume housework the next week with a new sense of purpose and understanding of their daily routines. They learn that Marmee wasn’t making them do chores. She was helping them set up necessary systems that supported other parts of their lives.
As human beings, we reach for extremes to simplify our motives. Zero Waste. Quitting sugar. Quitting social media. What’s harder, but more effective, is to understand our personal needs and limits.
I communicate most effectively in concentrated bursts. With this system, I can better direct my energy to spread ideas more fully. My in-rehearsal ideas don’t shine as brightly as my Opening Night ones, when my words are certain of their choreography, and can dance freely.
When I’m grumpiest with screens, I think, Why don’t I just print out my essays, put stamps on them and post them to people? Maybe one day this will be my business model, when we live in a cottage on the outskirts of Hogsmeade, growing vegetables and knitting blankets out of our dog’s fluff. I’ll send you an owl, and you can tuck a Knut or two into their pouch before sending them back. For now, I may not have the owl, but I can observe the timing of their post.
Until the next chapter,
P.S. If you would like to learn more about bringing more fantasy into your reality, join me this Thursday for my masterclass, ‘What Would a Heroine Do?’. RSVP here (it’s free).