Lessons Learned from a (Short) Digital Detox

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It’s never been more important to live with purpose, on purpose. To live intentionally.

— Colin Wright, The Becoming Tour

I’ve learned that I don’t do “intention” very well. Habit and convenience are extremely powerful and seductive forces. It’s easy to sacrifice long-term gains for short-term pleasures. As someone with an addictive personality who doesn’t handle discomfort well and struggles with self-discipline and depression, I feel pretty susceptible to these temptations. It seems like the bad habits, such eating too much sugar and compulsively checking Facebook, are the ones who gain a foothold. They sneak in and become difficult to dislodge, probably because they appear harmless and require little to no effort.

This year, I took a four-day vacation by myself to the beach. I decided to do a mini-digital detox by wearing a watch instead of keeping my phone with me and spend as much time outside as I could, as long as the weather held. I also planned to spend any rainy hours in a comfortable room continuing to write or read. But things didn’t go quite the way I’d planned. While the view of the ocean from the motel was lovely and the weather remained good, the room I was staying in was… well, not very pleasant. Musty-smelling, moldy, and so saturated with humidity that leaving anything outside a plastic bag meant it would be damp within a few minutes. On top of that, even though the motel technically had wi-fi (which I could get if I sat out on the balcony), I couldn’t get it in the room itself.

I was rather upset and frustrated at first, but I soon realized that this could be a blessing in disguise. A gross room with no wi-fi meant I had to stay outside during 90% of my visit. It forced me to be parsimonious with my time on the internet. If I was going to use it, it had to be for a specific purpose, not just random searching or mindless scrolling. Get on, get off, and save data for the GPS. On the beach, I discovered the joy of wearing a watch. You might wonder what the point of a watch is. I mean, you can just check your phone, right? But opening that phone also opens the temptation to “just check one thing” and before you know it, what was supposed to be a 2-minute check-in turns into a 2-hour deep-dive. A smartphone can do too much. A watch only tells time. That is it’s sole purpose. Using a watch instead of a smartphone and being cut off from the internet meant the number of distractions dropped to near zero. I literally had nothing to do except read, write, walk, and think.

“The Jetty” (Personal photograph; taken Sept. 19, 2018)

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Sending a submission is like fighting the Empire…

…there’s always another Star Destroyer.  The battle is never-ending.  A victory for the Rebel Alliance, no matter how epic, doesn’t mean the end of the war.  That’s a bit how I feel right now after finishing my 10,000-word submission for the Jim Henson Dark Crystal Author Quest.  I feel like those cheering Rebels on Hoth right after they hear the announcement:  “The first transport is away!  The first transport is away!”

Yes, the first one made it through.  And that feeling of victory when facing impossible odds is euphoric.  But they have to try to get the rest through the blockade as well.  And even if they make it off Hoth, the rest of the Empire is still out there, waiting for them.

This might not seem like a victory.  After all, I’m just one among many.  I have no idea what is going to happen next.  Will my entry be considered?  Accepted?  Ultimately win or be rejected?  I have no way of knowing.  But I started writing my Dark Crystal entry 5 months ago.  July 1, 2013, I used Camp NaNoWriMo to pound out half the novel.  I kept writing all the way through September.  October was sporadic writing followed by editing, then November was dedicated to my wonderful beta readers.  Their feedback helped me chose what portion of the novel to send as my submission.  I hit the “Submit Your Entry” button on November 30, exactly five months after starting this project.

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