I am at the Rio 2016 Olympics and this is a guest post from my friend, Jess Archer, whom I admire greatly. Her insight into the value of stillness in an age of technology is a strong motivation for each of us.
Jess Archer is a former English teacher and now freelance writer. She lives in Austin, Texas with her singer-songwriter husband, B. Sterling Archer and their two kids. Jess’s first book is a memoir entitled Finding Home with the Beatles, Bob Dylan and Billy Graham about growing up inside The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and her longing for a sense of home, available on Amazon. Read her poetry and musings at writerjessarcher.com
The Necessary Stillness for Making Art
By Jess Archer
The news headlines are screaming for your attention. Friends and family are elbowing for attention on social media. But you are a creative type trying to carve out space to do your art. You translate life best through creative endeavors. And you need freedom from the noise to create your art, be it writing, painting, music, or any other artistic expression. Is it possible to turn off the technological chatter? And why is silence so necessary for making art?
It helps to imagine creativity as a shy child. If you can imagine it like this, you’ll see why you need silence for creativity to blossom. Is a shy child going to share her feelings in a loud crowd? Not likely. She needs a quiet, comfortable space to open up. She needs some coaxing to speak up, reminders that she won’t be interrupted. Reminders that her voice is utterly unique, and that you want to listen. In the same way, your creative voice will not speak up unless you silence the distractions and invite it to speak. You’ll be amazed at your artistic output if you deliberately shut off the technological noise and listen to your inner shy, creative spirit.
Ask yourself this: are the writers, painters, photographers whose work you admire most tweeting all day long? Are they writing long, cumbersome rants on Facebook or posting selfies on Instragram? Most likely the answer to all of these is no. They are offline for long stretches of the day, their heads down doing the creative work…carving out an artistic expression of life in quietness.
But you need to market your art on social media, you say? Some experts suggest that for every hour you spend promoting yourself on social media, you should spend five hours doing your craft, unplugged from technology.
It can be hard to shut down our devices. Little alerts object to your self-imposed cloistering. So how do you quiet the technological clamor? Here are just a few practical tips that I’ve found very helpful:
1. If you are working for a long stretch of time on a creative project, why not set up an auto reply email message. It takes just seconds to do in your email settings. You can even make it funny: “Going off the grid to tap into my creative side…wish me luck! Be back soon.”
2. If text interruptions come up while you are writing or drawing (which they will) just send a quick automated reply: “Hey, working on my book/poem/song...will call soon.” Your people want you to get your creative work done.
3. Try and do your creative work at the same time every day. This is helpful for two reasons: A.) It’s a good habit for your brain: I tune out noise from 8am-10am. Creativity (like that inner child) likes routine...likes predictability. B.) It reminds other people not to poke you if you if they don’t really have to. Oh, that’s right, she works in her studio at this time.
Everyone needs breaks from the onslaught of technologically provided information. But artists must take a break from it. Try turning off the devices for short periods of time each day, then gradually stretch yourself toward more stillness. Your creative inner child will thank you.