The writer’s relationship with their phone

The writer’s relationship with their phone

What is your relationship with your phone like?

Mine is currently sat beside me on my desk. Like a year-round elf-on-the-shelf, I always need to know where the cheeky little mite is. It distracts me and entertains me and thieves my time. It does this with my consent – hell I’d even go so far as to say at times I’m in cahoots with the little electronic leprechaun.

(*Writing stops. Rebecca removes phone from desk, makes cuppa, returns to office and closes door. Picks up her tale*)

I tend to believe (as I suspect most of us do) that I have the phone-thing under control. I don’t spend my life on social media, I leave the phone downstairs at nighttime, in my bag (mostly) when I’m out. But it creeps back in. When my husband is away the phone comes upstairs with me. When my children are unwell or if we have a babysitter, the phone slides onto the table. When I’m waiting in a queue I’ll scroll. When I have a question I’ll go to my phone for the answer. And then there’s my relationship with WhatsApp…

Something Magical…

Yet what I find when I put the phone in the other room, when I close the digital door, especially when I’m writing, is that something magical happens.

In Misery, Stephen King’s protagonist author Paul Sheldon talks about the deep experience of writing, of falling through the paper, of the paper ceasing to exist. That for me is the real beauty of the writing process, those incalculable moments when the story you are expressing is as innate as the air you are breathing. This ‘flow’ state as Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes it, is harder to achieve for many of us today in our increasingly notification-driven, information-seeking, concentration-fractured world. We don’t ‘flow’ so much as skim through it; on the one level we’re submerged in the other world, the world of the article we’re reading on our phones, which leads us to look up some facts, which reminds us about a recipe we wanted to cook tonight, which also reminds us we were going to order new scales, there done, click and collect Argos, tomorrow, which reminds us that we haven’t responded to the latest ParentMail or filled in that survey or answered the latest messages our friends sent through on WhatsApp at least three hours ago….and so on. Skimming. Deep enough to no longer be fully present to whatever is going on in the physical here and now, but not immersed in the way that we are when we lose ourselves in writing for example, when we lose time, and come out of the process feeling juiced, like we’ve just been on vacation.

Elf on the Shelf

What I’m realising is being aware of what the digital sphere does to me (breaks my concentration, distracts me) is not the same as actively responding to it and taking action. I spent the whole of December quietly, calmly and repeatedly telling my daughter that we were not ever getting an Elf on the Shelf because whilst this might be other people’s Christmas tradition, it simply wasn’t ours. That felt good. Following this feel-good model, this January I’m taking the same line with my phone elf. I am breaking with the ‘always on hand’ tradition I have accidentally created with my phone and instead instituting a new tradition where my phone elf will remain for the most part on a shelf (or in a bag) in another room, out of view and back in a less prominent place in my life.

How about you? What’s your relationship with your phone like? Does it help or hinder your writing?

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