The Unplugging Bug

Unplug sunday

A disproportionate number of conversations in our home start like this:

Me: “Honey, I heard the most amazing TED talk today!” (or podcast, audio book, interview, etc.)

My Honey: “Oh. Really?” as he subtly backs away, looking for an escape route from the onslaught of unrelated but fascinating facts, stories, and anecdotes that is sure to follow.

Now, let me be clear: my husband is a good listener. The best, in fact.

I’m quite the listener myself. I am constantly taking in information. Absorbing input. Learning and listening while I work and go about my day.

I can tell you the best time of your cycle to ask for a raise (ovulation – your communication is at its best), I can lay out a zillion different (and conflicting) Twitter strategies that I’ve never implemented, and I can tell you more than you care to know about the differences between the right and left hemispheres of your brain.

It’s not just what I listen to. It’s piles of books, magazines, and my Google reader. It’s emails from friends and readers. It’s beyond words – as an artist, I’m also constantly taking in visual work by others.

I’m a sucker for output, too. My hand compulsively reaches for my phone to Instagram every sweet moment of my life (I have a two year old, so there are many). I write. I draw. I paint. I’m in constant real life conversation with my loved ones.

I love learning, and I love making connections with other people, in real life and online. There’s nothing quite like hearing that something I’ve written or drawn has made someone else’s day better. And there’s nothing quite like discovering something that brings a tiny epiphany to my brain.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with input and output.

But there is just one thing missing from all of this.

Silence.

Space.

Room for fresh ideas to be planted and grow.

Earlier this year I began unplugging for one day a week. No phone or internet or Netflix-streaming. No input or output outside of ‘real life.’ It required some planning each week, but it’s been so worth it.

I’ve got the unplugging bug. I want more.

Because I’ve realized that it’s not just about the technology. It’s about the information. It’s about the chatter.

It’s about having the same deep conversation every few days with my husband about the certain changes I’d like to create in my life, without getting any further clarity about how to sort them out and implement them. Because talking will only get me so far. There’s no space for the answers to come forth.

It’s about taking in more business or personal development information than I could possibly implement, from more business or personal development gurus than I could possibly name.

It’s about not taking time to examine my trajectories in life. Am I acting out of pure momentum and habit, or am I acting out of deep, unadulterated desire?

I’m on a quest for quiet. More space for the unknown to appear. Dialing down the earbuds, the stack of books, the screens, the email, and even (heavens!) the Instagram.

I think this has implications for my creativity – and yours – on all levels. Life, work, art.

Outside the sphere of anyone’s influence, what is important to us?

What does our work look like if we are not creating for anyone but ourselves?

What dreams do we not even know we had…if we have some space to dream them?

What thoughts emerge if we take a break from imbibing other people’s thinking?

What comes from a day unplugged and unfettered by chatter?

How does a sweet moment feel if we don’t record it?

What’s does completely free, wordless, and quiet time feel like?

This is my experiment. Does it speak to you?

How do you create space in your life for your own deep thoughts and voice (or total wordlessness!) to appear?

xxoo Maeg

16 thoughts on “The Unplugging Bug

  1. YES! I am like you, I love learning and reading and taking in a lot of stuff. But sometimes, it’s getting crowded 😉
    So I have decided not to turn on the computer on Sundays. No work, no social media. My phone is on but I have deleted the Tweeter and FB apps. And it does feel good!

  2. This couldn’t have come at a better time. Even within the past few weeks I’ve noticed myself saying more and more, “Today on twitter…” or “On this blog I follow…” And although I don’t like how consuming it all is, I always feel the need to read “just one more article”.

    Unplugging for a day is exactly what I need and I will be starting this week. Thanks for the inspiration!

  3. Ladies,
    I am much like you, except I conciously take 40 minutes a day (20 mins in the morning, and 20 minutes at night) to relieve myself with meditation (I do Transcendential Meditation (or TM)), but I would reccomend finding a practice for yourself that allows you to truly unplug. I also love Bikram yoga. Good luck!
    LS

  4. definitely food for thought. I love connecting with technology, but I do think it’s a bit overload at times. I wonder how much of my output is driven by all the input… and I just have to get out at times. Get out of the house and do something in nature, the space and silence, but not silence… is a great way to unplug for me!

  5. I’m not part of the plug in generation, but overload comes in many ways. I’ve found that my yoga practice helps me quiet my mind, and when it is quiet there is room for creativity.

  6. Wow! This is SO profound! I do not need to check in with Facebook, Pinterest, email & Instagram as much as I do – like an addiction… You have articulated exactly what I have been feeling lately – One can easily experience information overload & be left feeling like you want to go in way too many directions with your creativity! I also love get out, take the puppy for a walk and breathe. I have always listened only to music with no lyrics while I work – which helps tune out the voices. Thank you!

  7. I used to write in silence, surrounded by reams of photocopied journal articles and books stacked in five or six piles all waiting for ME to plug into THEM. Now I open my laptop and it’s a firehouse. My writing brain freezes up. I believe in unplugging. I am currently unplugged, painting, thinking, designing for clients. it is lovely, but I wonder how far behind I might be when I come back.

  8. Last week I didn’t totally unplug, but I took a break from our blog and went out of town where my internet access was limited. It helped me see how much I’d been plugged in without realizing it. It was great to take a break. Returned happy to reconnect with online folks, with energy to do more with my online work. Really like the idea of taking a day off each week. Have to ponder that one. Need to unplug right now so I can do that…

  9. Funny you should ask because tonight I’m doing the opposite of what I normally do … tonight I’m actually seeking out blog posts and group artists sites to get connected. Not one to have become too smitten with the information overload , I do, however, manage to waste plenty of time looking and listening to the “chatter” you so aptly spoke of. So many experts and wise people with lots of good to share. But it’s become information overload. Mine’s a love/hate relationship with the age of mega information available at our fingertips.

    So I take time to mediate 5-8 minutes a few days a week. Usually turn my computer off after 6:00 p.m. and make time for art, reading a bound book, writing handwritten notes to mail to friends via snail mail. It’s old fashioned and so satisfying.

    So I take 5-8 minutes a few times a week to meditate, time to read a book with an old-fashioned spine, write a handwritten note to a friend and write in my journal. It keeps me grounded. It allows me to think for myself.

  10. Like Emmanuelle, I try to take Sundays off from the computer. I just love it; it helps me be more present in the present. And most days, I take my dogs out for a walk for an hour or so and don’t take anything electronic. Some of my friends plug into podcasts or whatever when they’re out walking, but I find it much more relaxing to just see, smell, and listen to the world. (And the dogs!) Both of those things make it so much more enjoyable to be plugged in when I get back to the hubbub!

    Also, as many other comments have mentioned, yoga is great. Through my practice the past 15 years or so, I’ve learned that meditation for just a couple of minutes can really create some needed space.

  11. Hey all! I love reading your comments and hearing how much this post resonated with you.

    I too love yoga as a way to unplug and be fully present and in my body.

    Thank you for the wonderful reminders about meditation, too–that’s a practice I’ve been missing.

    xxoo Maeg

  12. This is intense..and I love it. So many of our conversations at home start with, “Did you see what so and so posted on Facebook?” haha. Mostly my side. I never thought I could give up refined sugar and flour and I’m almost two weeks without! (I do eat local honey as my sweet) I really, really need to try this, though. I can do more than I know.

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