Every day, we are assailed by voices clamouring for our attention. They shout from our inboxes and social media feeds. For writers, these voices might call out things like:
Turn your blog into a business!
Build your author platform!
Self-publish a bestseller!
Like the scene in Shrek (we have an eight-year-old, which is why I’m not quoting from the winner of the latest Cannes Film Festival award) where the green ogre surveys a crowd of fairy tale creatures and Donkey jumps up and down at the back calling, ‘Pick me! Pick me!’, our digital front yards are filled with noisy donkeys.
In our striving to create lives that are rich and productive, we tend to oversubscribe. And soon, our digital rooms are packed with big-eyed asses clamouring for attention.
A few weeks ago, I got sick with bronchitis. Feeling utterly miserable, I had no choice but to take to my bed (as the Victorian heroines used to do) and ignore all the voices calling out to me. I missed all the webinars, the deadlines for submissions, one message after another. Everything ground to a halt. The clamour quietened. A thick stillness (disturbed only by a coughing fit) descended on my room.
And there was something about that forced inertia that felt like relief.
Here’s what I realized:
There is so much information available to us just a Google search away, so many articles, videos and webinars by successful professionals sharing advice and tips, that in our quest for a creative and productive life, we find it hard to say no.
As a writer, I find myself subscribing to weekly newsletters, blogs and journals and printing out submission guidelines for writing competitions. Because I am scared of missing out, I say ‘Yes’ to all the donkeys.
And then I get overwhelmed by the options.
The impulses I feel inside me to take action in line with my dreams are soon smothered by the clamour of voices. The clear knowing within me is drowned out by noise. And after a few rounds of that, my inner spark eventually fizzles out.
So it’s important to know when to switch off the tap.
To everything, there is a season
There’s a time for filling up. And there’s a time for switching off. So now I am editing my life, trimming back on what I allow in. Unsubscribing. Going offline. Turning inwards.
I am trusting that I know what I need to know. I am picking up my pen and showing up at the blank page. I am coming back to my own voice.
And I need to apologize. In sharing my experience with you, I’m being one of the donkeys in your front yard calling out, ‘Pick me! Subscribe to my blog! Clap for this piece on Medium!’
So ignore my braying. Press the X. Close the screen.
You know who you are.
You know what you need to know.