June 30, 2014

The Summer Series - Lucy Robinson

I was first introduced to my guest today through a mutual online friend. If memory serves, I butted in on a Twitter conversation, which I am wont to do. Or, it could have been that after watching a Twitter conversation unfold, I thought to myself, "I like this Lucy gal." And followed her immediately.

That is what I love so much about the internet. I get to connect with people whose paths would not cross mine in my day-to-day world. Incredible people, who enrich my life in valuable ways. A diverse, wonderful and wacky group of people from around the words I am lucky enough I call my friends.

Lucy Miller Robinson is a writer, reader, artist, mother, lover and friend. She blogs about motherhood, gratitude, mindfulness and all things beautiful at Lucille in the Sky. She also shares flash fiction and poetry at Lucy Miller Robinson.

She lives in Seattle with her husband James, 7 year-old stepson Emile, 4 year-old daughter Giovanna Faith aka Gigi, and new baby daughter Skyla Winter.

She loves to dance and sing and draw faces and trees. Her personal credo comes from Henry David Thoreau:
all good things are wild and free.

Lucy has written three novels, and is currently working on her fourth. How does she do that, with three kids at home? Well, she has some special tricks. And today she is sharing one with us...

Writing in the age of distraction

In order to write from the soul we must ignore the noise of the external world long enough to journey within and excavate the stories. Either we manage to temporarily remove ourselves from society, relocating to a safe place where the words flow freely, or we become uncomfortable in our solitude. Instead of connecting with our stories we crave otherness. Hence the irresistible nature of social media and blogs. They provide the instant gratification of human connection--and when you're sitting at a desk all by your lonesome, day after day, connection is pretty great.

But these tools can be dangerous to our productivity as writers. The 21st century is the age of distraction. We have virtual friends to meet, endless information to gather and pictures to pin. We have Salon and HuffPost and Twitter to investigate. If we're not there, we'll miss something. Just typing this makes me want to click over (keep reading to find out why I can't). The internet swallows time the way wildfires swallow trees. With the power of a freight train. All it takes is one click. The content never stops so whose to say we should stop inhaling it?

There's something to that, I believe. We should take advantage of our resources. The world wide web has a lot to offer. And if we hope to build our online audience, we are somewhat obligated to participate in social media. By reading and commenting on other blogs, we discover kindred spirits--we build our tribe.

Admittedly, I often read blogs without commenting. I look but I don't touch. Apparently the statistic is high for people who troll Facebook but never "like" anything. And it makes me wonder, what are we really getting out of Facebook, then? A window into other people's lives, right? But if we don't wave from behind that window, what's the point? Are we too scared of vulnerability to interact? What feels better, hiding behind our computers or connecting with our network?

I am guilty of reverting to Facebook and blogs while working. I beg the universe for uninterrupted time to write and then I interrupt it myself. Since I have been letting go of the need to judge my day according to my productivity, I went with it for a while. Whatever. Sometimes reading about other people's lives feels better than living my own.

Or does it?

When I'm not doing what I feel called to do, when I'm not writing words regularly, when I'm too sick or tired or distracted and I simply don't get around to it for too many days in a row, a low-grade depression sets in. Discontentment that permeates everything like the stink of the campfire. I become an unhappy wife and mother. I struggle to fall asleep at night and get out of bed in the morning. I don't leave the house enough. I stop blogging and sharing photos on Instagram. I turn inward.

Which isn't always bad, is it? We all need breaks to recharge, and often, summer time stops us in our tracks. We have vacations and weddings to attend, kids and step-kids to care for. My city becomes a different place in the summer. A place of open skies instead of clouds, rich with clean beaches and wild berries. When the rain returns to Seattle in sheets, I tend to hunker down with a cup of tea and produce. This could also be a habit left over from my school days: the summer is for breaking and the fall is for fresh starts and hard work.

But I don't want to break this summer. With a new baby and three kids at home, I am actively seeking a balance between my child rearing duties and my calling to write fiction, non-fiction and poetry. In order to make the most out of every minute, hour and day, I must stay focused, creating new habits that allow me to practice and progress in my vocation, my craft and my passion.

I heard about Freedom a while ago. For $10, the program blocks your internet connection and gives you up to 8 hours of "freedom." I believed this would help me but I wanted to rely on my own self-control rather than an application. I told myself I needed continuous access to the internet for Pandora and for research. I was trapped by my addiction.

When I finally downloaded the trial and gave it a try, the first 120 minutes of "Freedom" dispelled any doubt I was not in control. I caught myself clicking over to the internet, or wanting to, several times. Too often allowing my hungry unfocused mind to interfere with my work.

Because I'd found Freedom, I couldn't find refuge in the web, and so I had no choice but to keep going through the hard stuff rather than put my head down and stall. As soon as the application unlocked the internet, I checked my email. I read an article on Google News. I scraped together my willpower and fought the urge to check Facebook.

I hope I don't have to use Freedom forever. I hope I break the addiction and stop defaulting to the internet to feed my mind at unnecessary intervals. I believe that we struggle with dissatisfaction when we are not balanced between consuming and creating. And when we have no boss but our own ambition, no deadlines but those that are self-imposed, no guarantees of an audience but our loved ones, all motivation comes from within. Which is pretty cool.

Lucy touches on so many issues I can relate to in this post! Balancing motherhood and writing. Not wanting to upset that precious harmony or lose momentum during the summer months. Needing to focus and not be distracted so I can actually write...

This was great timing for me! Thanks so much, Lucy!

Check out the other Summer Series contributors:

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