I don't like computers very muchI'm 23, I make electronic music, I communicate with and share information with people across the globe. Ironically, I don't really like computers that much.
One of the best things I've done lately for my creativity and peace of mind, has been to turn off my computer more frequently. I have long ago realised how easily and heavily I get addicted to web browsing, and I still have occasional slips. Even without an internet connection, I still think the computer is problematic for several reasons:
- Everything is unnaturally fast and effective. I'm not sure if our minds able able to process so much information in such a short time, and make proper sense of it.
- The multitasking powers of computers means that there's always another task or activity lurking in the back of my head, while the main task it being performed. The advantage and problem with modern technology is that we can get so many things done so quickly. The tasks can add up quite easily, and there's often a sense of "I could have gotten more done".
- With such a wide variety of potential tasks or activities to engage in, I find it extremely easy to lose focus. I even managed to distract myself while typing this exact list point. Jumping back and forth between tasks means lost focus, half-assed work, and a lot of wasted time. Being able to multitask is supposed to be a good thing, but valuing the ability to engage in inefficiency seems a bit backwards to me.
Computers are better, but not reallyI originally wrote this post by hand, and it was very, very slow compared to my super fast keyboard typing. I couldnít save the text or make a backup copy, and I certainly couldnít easily change the text if I changed my mind. ďInflexible, inefficient and old-fashionedĒ many might say.
Pen and paper have several obvious disadvantages, which make almost everyone consider a computer the best option. Speed, efficiency, flexibility, ease of distribution; technically, computers are undoubtedly superior.
Yet, it feels immensly liberating to write this with pen and paper. The absence of distractions is fantastic, but the most considerable difference is what the work pace seems to be doing with my thinking:
Slow isn't badI don't know exactly what it is, but I imagine the brain finally gets to work at its own tempo; the ideas are given time to ripen. The Laozi quote from my Silence article has become a central part of my thinking: "Nature doesn't hurry; yet, everything is accomplished."
When writing by hand, I feel far more thoughtful and far more focused. The computer is fast and multitask-oriented, whereas my ideas come under slow and single-task conditions.
After I've written down the ideas with pen and paper, having explored my ideas peacefully and completely, that's when computers come in handy. In my case, I need it for spreading my blog posts, and definitely for actually making some electronic music based on my previously handwritten background stories. Still, I notice that typing these words is making me much more stressed than writing them for hand.
I'm not a DJ myself, but let's say you're going to create a mix, radio show or something. With a computer, you're probably going back and forth super fast, listening to tons of songs, doing adjustments, etc. With pen and paper however, you're forced to really put some thought into what you're doing. You're forced to use your imagination fully, and the brain gets to work at its own pace.
I believe ideas are the most important part of anything that involves creation. Everyone has a brain, and everyone can afford a pen and a notebook. Maybe money and computer skills aren't as important after all?
Disconnect; itís the polite thing to doThis isn't just about improving creativity and peace of mind. People's dependence upon technology (my own included) bothers me quite a bit. I would like to encourage people not only to turn off their computer, but also to leave their cellphones or turn them off as often as possible.
I find it very rude to answer the phone in the middle of a conversation. Whatís more important: Devoting your full attention and appreciation to the person youíre physically with, or choosing to prioritise the notification from your fancy pocket gadget?
Now that the cellphone really has become more of a super-versatile mini PC, I believe itís more important than ever to firmly distinguish between our digital lives, and the interaction with those physically present among us. Other notifications such as e-mail, RSS, Facebook, etc. should also be disabled, and rather checked once or twice a day.
The notifications arenít going anywhere, and unless youíre specifically expecting something at a certain time, missing them by a couple of hours is almost never an issue. It makes far more sense being concerned about missing the present moment in my opinion.
Itís only the past 10 years or so that weíve set ourselves up to be available and updated at any given time. We were probably better off before that, and it works just as well now. Avoiding information overload is an extremely beneficial thing; thereís much more written on the topic at Zen Habits: http://zenhabits.net/infoholic/ and here: http://changethis.com/manifesto/show/34.04.LowInfo.
MonotaskingBelow is a presentation by Barry Schwartz on the paradox of choice, which I believe reinforces my experiences with pen and paper:
I suspect this might be one of the most important topics Iíve written about so far. Iíve been using pen and paper the past couple of days, and the difference is unbelievable. Going from stressful multitasking possibilities to slow, peaceful and thoughtful monotasking is one of the nicest experiences Iíve had in a long time.
When Iím using a computer, I can potentially be doing dozens of different things. I could read e-books on my computer, but that would be part of either actual or potential multitasking; itís far nicer to read them on an e-reader. Similarly, I could write these posts on my computer, but that would also be part of actual or potential multitasking. Itís far nicer to let the ideas ripen and flourish with pen and paper.
Also, creation isnít so much about equipment as ideas. After Iíve checked e-mail, RSS and forums, Iím turning off my computer, letting out a sigh of relief as the fans turn off, taking a sip of my cup of tea; just me, my pen and my paper.
The pen is mightier than the computer.