I will begin by saying this is not a manifesto enumerating the evils of smartphones. Though I came late to the game (I got my first smartphone only one year ago), I’m quite pleased with the technology and the many conveniences that come along with it. But this morning I found myself questioning the way I use my phone, and how it is affecting my personal creativity.
Since moving to Arizona, I’ve come to develop an attachment to hummingbirds. Sure, we have them back home in South Carolina, but not nearly in as high numbers as there are here. They’re small, and beautiful, and so incredibly quick, that it’s hard to have a moment to actually look at them in detail, so I mostly just appreciate them from afar as they whiz by.
This morning, however, as my daughter and I were out for a walk (gotta get out early before the heat starts to rise too much), a beautiful, dainty hummingbird crossed our path, not more than three feet in front of us. It hovered there, for a solid minute, inspecting a shiny puddle of water that lay in the center of the sidewalk. The moment I saw it, my hand went straight to my pocket to grab my phone and snap a picture–I mean, what are the chances of getting such an awesome picture?! But I quickly remembered that I’d left my phone at home, charging, and so instead of zooming and snapping several pictures in the tiny window of time that I had, I simply had to stand and watch, and think about what I was seeing. And wonder about what my daughter might be thinking of it. And wonder if hummingbirds drink from puddles, or if maybe the little bird thought that perhaps he had stumbled upon a miraculous lake of nectar. And notice the way the light glinting off the sidewalk reflected against the bird’s beating wings, and how he seemed to move without a care in the world, as though he, too, was enjoying the cool peacefulness of the morning. And marvel at the grace of something so small.
I’d have missed all that if I’d been taking the pictures, and I wouldn’t even be writing right now. Instead, I’d be posting a picture to Instagram, maybe, showing off the awesome shot I got of an elusive hummingbird. Or maybe I’d be scrolling through the 235 pictures I snapped, trying to determine which one was best, only thinking of “how cool” it had been to get such a picture on a very superficial level. (I know this is what I’d do, because I actually did it two days ago when I snapped a few pictures of a hummingbird that happened to be sitting on a tree branch unaware of me).
How often, when I try to sit down and write, do I pull out my phone and look at pictures, or play a game? How often do my fingers itch to check Facebook for just a second, or to send a text message ‘real quick’? Am I allowing my smartphone to inhibit my creative process? I think that I am.
Don’t get me wrong–I’m not going to pull out an antique typewriter or, heaven forbid, a scroll and parchment–but I am going to have to make a change. I am resolving right now to make the choice to leave my phone in my pocket more often, and to give all my attention to whatever task I’m doing. To really be where I am, and to really do what I’m doing. When I sit down to write, I’ll write–without constantly clicking away from the screen, or pulling out my phone. And then we’ll see what happens. 🙂