Write It Down

I was so inspired last week by the discovery of the podcast Hurry Slowly, which is about becoming more creative, productive and resilient by the act of slowing down. 2017 has been the first full year I’ve been a full-time, working-from-home freelancer, and that shift has provoked a lot of thoughts about how I balance the use of technology, make time for things that matter, and dim the damn noise. Meaning this podcast is up all my alleys!

Write It Down >> Life In Limbo

I’ve only listened to a couple episodes of the podcast so far (Ann Friedman’s was also super great), but the one that’s stuck with me the most was the interview with Austin Kleon, one of my favourite writers/makers/creatives. Their discussion was all about analog vs. digital technologies, and how they use each depending on what they are creating.

And although I make ample use of both analog and digital forms in my everyday, I’d never really thought about it in quite the way they were discussing – that some types of thinking and creating are better suited to a pen and paper. In some ways, even hearing other creative people affirm that using a Sharpie on a big sheet of paper can help you think differently really gave me the permission to own and embrace that idea and put it into practice more often.

This weekend, up north and surrounded by beautiful snowy fields, my friend Sonja and I mapped out all of 2018 for her business, Nurture. As her assistant, the mapping was relevant to me too! Luckily, I had packed the bigger sheets of paper and my markers, and I think it made a big difference. Once it was down on paper, we could move things around, see everything at a glance, and interact with the ideas in a more tangible way. It was less stressful than planning on a digital screen or calendar, and ended up being really fun and energizing.

In the interview, Austin says (at minute 33):

“It’s the act of drawing itself that is so valuable, because it’s in the process of drawing things that you really start to understand them.”

And although I’m not always drawing, I think the same holds true for writing, mapping, planning, sketching, and dreaming. Sometimes you need to write it down to make it real. Sometimes you need to write it down to actually absorb it. Sometimes you need to write it down to unlock something in your brain.

What kinds of things do you do on pen and paper? What tasks do you do on the computer? Is there anything that needs to ‘switch forms’?

PS. This reminds me of a very old post I once wrote about the magic of writing things down. Do I just learn the same things over and over? (Yes.) (Please don’t mock me for the hilarity of that post.)

Wake Up to the Light

I just got home from a blissful twenty-four hours off the grid. No cell phone reception, no wifi, no phone, no social media. 24 hours without alerts or pings or messages. 24 hours of peace & quiet, literally. 24 hours of space, physically, spiritually and emotionally. Turns out that 24 hours of real space and deep quiet is quite enough to leave you feeling refreshed and rested. (That said, I could have easily stayed for a week.)

Wake Up to the Light >> Life In Limbo

One unexpected delight of all this extra space was rediscovering the feeling of not knowing the time. It was such a joy to lose track of time while doing “nothing” with a small group of people, or by myself. We went for a long walk in the snow and watched the light fade from the sky. We watched the fire and tended it when it got low. We made snacks and dinner when we needed them. We drank water when we needed it. We had long conversations when we needed them. We read books when we wanted to. We journaled. We lingered.

And this morning, I woke up to the light coming in the window. It had snowed overnight, and the view from our bunk bed was like a postcard. Every single tiny branch had a little layer of snow: pristine and picturesque and perfect. What a treat, to let my body have the sleep it needed, and to let the light wake me up without an alarm.

I’m home now, and trying to hold on to the calm and quiet I felt while we were away. Maybe I won’t wake up to a postcard view every single day, but I think I can make things quieter, do things that help me lose track of time, and find ways – literally and metaphorically – to wake up to the light.

Going Off the Grid

On my walk the other day, my phone died right after I took this photo, which I’d been waiting for the conditions to line up for all Autumn. And I mean right after, as in I took the picture, and the next second my phone turned off. I actually worried that maybe it didn’t save properly, but instead it turned out absolutely perfect.

Going Off the Grid >> Life In Limbo

This meant that for the rest of my walk, I was unplugged. Really, truly unplugged, which doesn’t actually happen very often. I didn’t know what time it was, I was waiting for friends to text me back, I wanted to take more pictures of my beautiful surroundings, my mom was about to phone me, I wanted to listen to my podcasts or my music. Safe to say: I noticed myself get mildly irritated that I wasn’t tethered to my phone and couldn’t access all the benefits it gives me.

Ew! Gross, right? I try to live my life as quietly as I can (no notifications, no vibration or alerts from my phone, Do Not Disturb almost 24/7) and am constantly experimenting with ways to reduce my addiction to technology (this week’s test: putting my phone in grayscale to make it less fun to play with). But even though I work on this stuff all the time, having my phone decide for me that I couldn’t use it was a bit jarring. I still wanted that connection! I wanted to be tethered to my loved ones and listen to things I like! I wanted to be plugged in on my own terms.

If I’m honest though, even when it’s “on my own terms” I still find it hard to manage my compulsive checking. I’m constantly trying to set rules for myself to reduce this tendency, but I don’t always follow them. It really does work best when I remove the temptation completely: having Airplane mode on overnight so I’m not tempted to check messages before breakfast, turning off data use for apps like Instagram so I don’t constantly check them while I’m out and about. (Perk: I haven’t run out of data since making that change.)

On an episode of Happier, Gretchen and Elizabeth interviewed Moby and asked what his #1 tip was for people to be happier. I loved his answer, but it kind of has haunted me, because I have not very often followed his advice. Here’s what he said, in a condensed form:

“Make an effort to be around nature. Leave your phone at home. Don’t go into nature and listen to podcasts. Give yourself a break from the world of people. Don’t look at a screen, don’t listen to music, don’t check Facebook, just give yourself an hour of looking at this world that has nothing to do with humans.”

The truth in this advice rings through for me loud and clear, despite the fact that I find it hard to follow.

Today I’m going up north for one night with a friend, and I want to go off the grid a bit. I want to pretend there’s no cell phone reception or wifi (for all I know, maybe there really is neither!) and get quiet instead. I want to use my phone as a camera and a note-taking device, but not a connecting device. I don’t want to look at Instagram, or Facebook, or my email. I want to write in my journal and take pictures with my big camera and just be.

Because here’s the other thing? When I got home after that peaceful walk and plugged in my phone, I had one text message and no missed calls. I hadn’t missed anything, and I’d gained so much.

Inspiration: November 17

Every week on Friday, I share a list of the most interesting and inspiring content I’ve read lately here on my blog. You can expect thoughts on productivity, happiness, balance, spirituality, politics, and more. Subscribe here to get updates. See archives here.

Inspiration November 17 >> Life In Limbo

The case for practicing radical honesty and transparency in business and our personal lives, with lots of examples from the corporate culture at Netflix. My friend Sonja shared this with me, and we’ve agreed to start playing Stop-Start-Continue. Stay tuned…

I put every single book on this list onto my to-read list. The ladies at The What read voraciously (a lot more than me) and have impeccable taste in books. Can’t wait for their top 25 non-fiction picks next week.

Reminder: the world is a little bit crazy, but we can do good, hard things. We can be kind to one another. We can smile, hold the door, and take a deep breath while waiting in line. See also: my favourite thing of all time (that I think about almost every single day), This is Water. I just re-watched it and bawled, as I always do.

Who wants to try this brunch timing trick with me?! So fun, so whimsical, so practical.

I have been struggling with this idea so much recently, so reading this post was a breath of fresh air: “Here’s what I’ve learned is the key mental habit of simplicity: noticing the mind’s tendency to want more, and don’t believe it.” Gotta love a shoutout to Byron Katie, too.

I really liked this “gift guide” post because it de-emphasizes buying stuff for the sake of stuff. I’m trying to be more mindful about gift-giving this year, and I like the idea of focusing on things like delicious food, good experiences, and memory-keeping.

I’ve been trying to remember lately that writing and walking are my very best tools for thinking and processing my emotions. I liked this simple post about how to keep a journal for personal development – it reminded me of ways I can “think out loud” the next time I have a decision to make. His reading list also looks good, although it’s 99% male authors.

A nice reminder that you never can really know what impact your work might have on someone else. You just have to keep showing up and doing the work, having faith that it will land with the right people.

I had a mysterious stomach ache for most of this week, which definitely put a damper on my energy! Even still, I had a great week talking philanthropy at Tuesdays Together, taking photos, writing blog posts, getting cozy with some friends. I’m happy it’s the weekend though! I hope you have a wonderful weekend too. xo.