Just. Switch. It. Off.

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Creativity / Motivation / Productivity

We all have a guilty secret.

All of yours I will not know, but I’d be willing to guess that you’re an Internet addict.

I know I am, and it’s been getting worse.

Wait a minute. Why am I talking about the Internet as if it’s such a bad thing?

It’s not a donut dipped in gooey pink cocaine syrup.

The Internet – all of its shining, spinning working parts – is a wonderful thing for many reasons. We all know this.

But let’s be honest. The Internet blocks us from working more deeply, more conscientiously, and with focus.

These things are especially important if you are an artist.

Up until a point, the Internet does play a role in helping us create things, by teaching and inspiring us.

You’re ready to create. You know you are. But you still cling to the Internet – its comforts; its mesmerising distraction; its unending supply of novelty.

What binds us even more deeply to it, is kidding ourselves into thinking that being constantly connected is always a valuable thing – that it’s time well spent.

This idea is everywhere.

Internet marketing gurus say we must be connected and engaged and with the times otherwise we will fall behind.

‘It’s cool to be a tech/Internet geek.’

Our friends are there, showing off about their latest holidays, reinforcing the idea that if you’re not on the web, and you’re not on it 24/7, engaging, you are less of a social being, less human.

And so we log in more. We watch more. We research, search, click, share, like and tag, more and more.

But then we see that our creative output is not as high as it was a decade ago; five years ago; last year. We have less energy to do more, though we want to do more. We are more anxious. We have less time.

Could the Internet have something to do with that?

We need to get real again. We need to admit that true, intense creativity is found in the vacuum created by logging off and turning off notifications – and not just for 30 minutes – for longer.

I often need to remind myself that I’m an artist first and a consumer last, and so are you.

This means coming face to face with the idea that the Internet must take a back seat to what really makes you more alive: being actively creative, without distraction.

Gary Vaynerchuk says that attention is the most important currency in succeeding. People need to know you exist, constantly, in order to get ahead, using the Internet as the enabler for this.

But at what cost?

How about returning some of the attention you’ve bought from others, and re-investing it into actually making things?

The Internet is, of course, useful – vital even – for showing others what we’ve made. We need it to market ourselves, to make an impact with what we create. But what I’m doing is making it secondary to creating.

Join me in making the decision to take control of this habit; to step outside of the bubble for at least a few hours each day.

When you do, you are able not only to work more creatively, with more focus, but you will get ahead. Cal Newport says that those who will stand out in the future (and right now) are those who are honing the skill of doing ‘deep work’. This is an endeavour and a skill that is today diminishing rapidly.

So shut off the Internet for as much of the day as you can, even though it won’t be easy at first.

I’ll let you figure out how best to do that, with what suits you. We all have different plans. Some of us need the web more than others.

But do you need it as much as you think?

The Author

Alex is a project starter, sometimes finisher, writer and illustrator. He started Red Lemon Club in 2009 with the aim of helping talented creative people leave their mark.

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