Life Without a Smartphone: My Time Outside the Matrix

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Let’s not be too dramatic here. I went a little over a month without a smart phone. But it was a worthwhile experience to really drive home how much I depend on it for certain things, and also, how freeing it is to be digitally disconnected.

I dug out an old flip phone the bf and I kept for emergencies after dropping my smartphone for the last time *sniff*. So I had that, but I was paying for minutes, so I didn’t give out the number like free candy (not that I would just give out any candy I happen to come by). I mainly had it for emergencies, and though it had ‘internet capabilities’, let’s just say it didn’t know what to do with itself if I clicked that little world wide web button.

To put into perspective how dated this phone is, this is the actual image on the button to get to the interwebs.

I took the phone with me on my trip to World Horror Con in Atlanta, GA, which was literally on the other side of the US from home for me. During that time, the few days before the trip, and the weeks after that when I only had that flip phone, these were the things I missed the most about my smartphone:

  • Being able to have the internet at the touch of a screen–not a button (my hands got so cramped texting my roomies during the con on that tiny little keypad). For instance, if I wanted to check something during the conference, like look at details on my website about the manuscript I planned to pitch, I had to go all the way back up to my room and haul out my laptop.
  • Being able to have a camera that was better than most digital cameras. I brought a digital camera along to the con that I didn’t use much.
  • I forget things. A lot. So for one month, I gravely missed my digital calendar and the ability to take notes when I didn’t have any scraps of paper handy (which is surprisingly not that often, though it’s still nice to have all my ideas, lists and notes in one, non-physical place).
  • Feeling connected. In certain areas, my little flip phone deaded out, and I would see texts hours later from my bf back home or my roomies letting me know where they’d be. There was a lot of running around the conference, assuming I’d see them at this panel or that reading, or that we’d just find each other after.

The things I didn’t miss so much:

  • With a smartphone, one is infinitely more distracted from day-to-day life. I feel like I experienced things more fully without one. For instance, travel to the conference was my first time on a plane. Every time before take off or when we landed, people were pulling their phones out, turning airplane mode off, checking what they missed, and immediately reconnecting themselves with the technological world. Without that distraction, I was able to absorb more of the first-time experience, enjoy my surroundings, smile at the child throwing the fit rather than groan, and talk to my fellow passengers (those that were willing to of course) rather than being buried in my phone. Also, because I wasn’t distracted by my phone, I got a great head start on one of my freebie books from the conference, Within These Walls.
  • During the conference, not having my phone kept me from constantly checking and updating social media. I was experiencing rather than spending lost minutes and hours sifting through Twitter and Facebook feeds. They are serious time-suckers unless you plan to only allot yourself so much time for surfing. And one thing I hate doing is wasting time. Especially when it’s against my will. Funny cat videos and celebrity gossip be damned!
  • This one directly opposes my last reason for missing my phone, but I liked not feeling connected sometimes. Before and after the conference, when I would just be sitting around at home, usually trying to talk myself into writing, I felt a huge weight off my shoulders without the threat of my phone ringing with a call or text. It sounds horrible, like I don’t want to talk to my family or friends, but just as much as I can be an extrovert, I am also a huge introvert. I use my time off work to recharge and do my second job, which is writing. So unless I’ve planned to speak with or see someone, I sometimes feel caught off guard or exposed when anyone breaks through.

This experience showed me that it’s easy to become dependent on technology, specifically smartphones, and that sometimes, a brief reprieve is exactly what we need to recharge our minds and focus. Has there ever been a time you found yourself bereft of smartphone technology or access to a particular app (for instance, my bf cut Facebook out of his life and was much happier for it)? Were you miserable or did it relieve a little tension in your shoulders?

The Faces of the Crying Girl

Faces of the Crying Girl

I am ecstatic to have my short story “Kara’” included in The Faces of the Crying Girl, an anthology composed of 12 different authors’ takes on Alexander Nader’s story “The Crying Girl”. HairBrained Press will release the anthology on April 20th  for $2.99 if you want the Kindle edition and $6.99 if you want a hardcopy. Why should you buy an anthology from 12 authors you probably know very little about? Because all proceeds will be donated to www.worldreader.org. Here’s their mission statement:

“Literacy is transformative: it increases earning potential, decreases inequality, improves health outcomes and breaks the cycle of poverty (UNESCO). Yet there are 740 million illiterate people in this world and 250 million children of primary school age who lack basic reading and writing skills (UNESCO). Books are necessary for the development of these skills, and still 50% of schools in Africa have few or no books at all (SACMEQ II).

Worldreader is on a mission to bring digital books to every child and her family, so that they can improve their lives.”

Visit this page to see how they fulfill this mission.

Another good reason to buy the anthology is just because it’s going to be awesome. Duh.

I haven’t read the other stories in it, so the other interpretations of the foundation story will be a mystery to me too until I read it along with you all.  So check it out, leave Amazon ratings and reviews on Goodreads, tweet about it, like it on Facebook, or just buy it for a good cause and pretend you read it.

And because you stuck with me so long on this post, dear readers, here’s a teaser from my story, “Kara”:

“The drug interfered with the production of chemicals in the brain required for a normal functioning existence. The cessation of these chemicals resulted in the kind of behavior they’d seen running rampant at metal concerts since Audiophilia had first appeared on the scene a couple years ago. Destruction of property, hostility toward others. And besides that, some weird shit, Jacobson thought.”

Okay, there you have it. Let me know what you think in the comments if you get a chance to check it out. And happy National Poetry Month!

An Almost Perfect Reading Session

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Because I work a day job while trying to being a writer, I have to take my moments of productivity when I can get them. Now don’t let me fool you; it is a rare thing to find me writing after work. I usually binge on my days off. But on the off-chance that I can get something accomplished, I tend to carry with me whatever chapter/poem/outline I’m working on to look over on my lunch break to, ideally, make a dabble of progress. Of this one hour time slot for writing-related work, I dedicate about 15 minutes to the preparation of my lunch and the consuming thereof (again, don’t let me fool you: it’s almost all prep. I inhale food like a soldier in the chow hall).

You’re probably wondering why I’m yammering on about writing–and eating–when this post is about reading. Well, I’ve had a lot of coffee today, so you’re just gonna have to deal with my digressions. Now, though this is my designated writing time, I just so happen to have a Write Night tonight, and I have already completed my chapters and sent them off to my best friend/writing partner’s capable hands. In keeping with the lunch theme, I have also already devoured her chapters.

Necessities for Write Night critique sessions: good food, CAFFEINE, and colorful gel pens, duh
Necessities for Write Night critique sessions: good food, CAFFEINE, and colorful gel pens, duh

So, having accomplished all of these grand tasks, I thought I’d let myself indulge in some relaxing reading. I had two things to choose from: a One Story, entitled “Claire, the Whole World” (really good so far) sent to me in a carefully crafted care package by the illuminous* and industrious, Carie Juettner, or Dracula (I have 15 pages left; I’m so close!). But I’m not going to tell you what I chose, because what I read doesn’t matter. The point is, that hour–or 45 minutes realistically speaking–of drowsy-after-lunch-hot-afternoon tranquility was beautiful. And in that sublime state, you will sometimes find that your thoughts lilting on some strange, almost surreal, bend to whatever you’re reading, but for the life of you, you can’t recall the thought when you come to. This is a uniquely satisfying state to read a book in.

This isn’t the perfect state to read a book in, because let’s face it, if you have to pay attention, this is actually the opposite way you should consume the reading material. But it can be deemed an almost perfect reading session, which brings us to our list of requirements for–yep, you guessed it–an almost perfect reading session:

  • 1 comfy chair
  • an even climate (preferably a controlled one if it’s 108 outside like it is here)
  • a spot of tea or coffee-yes, even in the afternoon
  • a full, happy tummy
  • a kitty on my lap would have been nice, but alas we have no office cats. I will have to retry this entire thing on my day off
Doesn't she look so damn cuddly?
Doesn’t she look so damn cuddly?
  • And finally, a really good book. You can use an e-reader, but it really isn’t the same. You can argue with me, but I stand by that statement 😉

So eat your lunch–please, chew your food–gather your chair and book and kitty and settle in for a lovely afternoon of reading/dozing/almost-perfect contentment.

*Pretty sure I made that word up

Night Fishing

I’m always measuring time by things done, tasks accomplished and goals achieved or I’m beating myself up over the lack thereof. But last night, I went fishing, and it was freedom. Sitting there in my $10 lawn chair with the same little fishing pole my grandma used to use was a glimmering instant in which time ceased to exist. It was a nice substitute for the quiet moment when I’d sit on my balcony in the evening to smoke a cigarette, the moment that I had to tell myself I’m going to have. Otherwise, I am too entangled in time’s chattel to experience that floating contentment of my spirit in some in-between realm of nothing and everything.

See how happy I am?
See how happy I am?

I am by no means some epically busy person; I work a day job and spend time with friends and family, and try to write in between. But I let my obsession with time consume me—it has so much control over me that as I was sitting there, staring up at the sky, in which I could swear I saw the milk swirls of our galaxy in that deep dark, I realized the lightness that had overcome my mind. A sigh, a relaxation. And it was because I had found that pocket in time, freedom from everything but that singular moment of just existing out there in nature. Not to sound like a hippie or anything (seeing as how there is no adequate synonym for nature), but you truly reap all the benefits from nature without needing to give anything in return, unlike the scheduled aspects of our life, where we must consistently put something in to get a return.

I won’t bore you with the details of the music the waves played on the shore, or the tinkle of the bells on the line when something bites, or the lingering scent of anchovies on your fingers and hot coffee from a thermos, or the visceral goo of the fish and wriggle of the worm as you put it on the hook, or the stars shining a hundred times brighter than they do back in town with the silhouette of the mountains even blacker than that vast space of sky—I won’t bore you with extravagant explanations of those, but they were all part of it. 🙂

My view just after sunset

Sometimes you have to let yourself get away from goal-setting and your identity as a writer and the self-worth measured in words composed and tasks completed. You need this as much as you need to write and read. Not only to be a better writer but to soothe your soul, give it a shout out to acknowledge that you know it’s still there amid all of the mad rushing of this clock/cellphone-driven existence.

Sometimes you just have to get back to the basics, even if that involves standing there somewhat ignorantly for a while as you try to recall what you had learned as a child—how to tie a hook onto your line, how to bait your hook, how to cast your line—to get back into the swing of just being, reacquainting yourself with living life rather than measuring itjust you and the universe. Not worrying about deadlines, or word counts, or chores, or how you’re going to deal with a problem tomorrow, but just getting your line out there and taking it all in—or letting it all out. However you want to look at it.