How a Digital Detox Can Boost Your Creativity

“The right to disconnect isn’t necessarily an obligation to do so, but it’s an opportunity.”

New Yorker columnist Lauren Collins made this observation in an amusing column this week about the French government’s workplace reforms that include a suggestion to shut down after-hours email. The piece got me thinking that we should indeed strive to unplug from time-to-time to connect in other ways, focus on being better parents and partners, and recharge professionally—especially creatively.

If you’re thinking of trying to bring a spark back to your creativity with a break from the digital world, here are some ways to go about it:

 

  • Force yourself to be bored. In a recent article for Fast Company, author Martin Lindstrom argues, based on personal experience and interviews with other creative professionals that “you need to be a little bored in order to generate your most inventive ideas and produce your highest-quality work.” And while the notion of forced boredom could seem counter-intuitive, it’s true that I’ve had some of my best creative writing moments during those “deliberate rendezvous with our unhurried minds that take a real effort to keep.”

 

  • Seek out solitude. There’s no greater way to evoke empathetic writing than to be alone with your own thoughts. In a 2014 Atlantic article, Joe Fassler brilliantly underscores this point: Solitude, I think, heightens artistic receptivity in a way that can be challenging and painful. When you sit there, alone and working, you get thrown back on yourself. Your life and your emotions, what you think and what you feel, are constantly being thrown back on you… You can’t run away from your emotions and your memory and the material you’re working on. Artistic solitude is a decision to turn and face these feelings, to sit with them for long periods of time.  It takes the courage to be there. You run into your own pettiness. Your own cowardice. You run into all kinds of ugly sides of yourself. But the things that you’ve experienced in your life become the writing that you do.” 

 

  • Make yourself open to new experiences. Scientific American recently featured an excerpt from the new book, Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind, by Scott Barry Kaufman and Carolyn Gregoire. It sheds light on a concept I’ve come to appreciate as a writer and communicator. To be at your creative best, you’ve got to change up the status quo. As Kaufman and Gregoire note, “The revelations and methods of Burroughs, Kerouac and other Beat writers illuminated an important truth about creativity, which is now backed by scientific research. We need new and unusual experiences to think differently.” Whether the experience you choose for yourself is “new” or “unusual” the bottom line is that unplugging can open you up to your very best ideas.

So, just in case you need another reason to slow down and allow yourself the opportunity to disconnect—and perhaps more importantly connect in different ways—here are three. I hope you’ll put them to work in your own life, and see just how your creativity flows.