You guys. I did the craziest thing the other day.
I turned off my cell phone.
And my world completely changed.
Okay, okay, I'm being a taaaad dramatic (which I consider to be one of my best qualities), but I swear to you that it really, truly changed my day. And I've been thinking about it ever since then.
I was one of the very last people I know to get a smart phone. I toted around a bright blue non-smart phone with a sliding keyboard as long as I possibly could. Why? Because I'm cheap and stubborn and resistant to change.
After a while, it became pretty ridiculous that I was clinging to this little piece of machinery that didn't really do a lot for me. Also, Verizon was about to end its unlimited data plan. So I hopped on the smartphone bandwagon.
I swore to myself that I would never become one of those people who had the phone out at dinner, who wouldn't look up from playing Candy Crush, who Facebooked as she talked.
And then I became one of those people.
Last Friday, I decided to take the commuter ferry to New Jersey after work. As usual, I was furiously Candy Crushing (yes, I just made Candy Crush a verb) while I was waiting on the dock for the boat to arrive.
And then I looked up and realized that it was a gorgeous day. One of the first gorgeous days after what felt like the longest winter in history. And I was wasting it.
So I did what any sane New Yorker would never do. I turned off my cell phone.
I forced myself to stand there and stare at the murky greenish-brown water and the big, weathered commuter ferry as it approached the dock. I had to practically sit on my hands to be still and enjoy viewing the ridiculously stunning New York skyline. (Full disclosure: I did take out my phone once to take this picture.) And I forced myself to walk through the streets of Hoboken (birthplace of baseball and Frank Sinatra) without talking on the phone, without listening to a podcast, and without closing myself off from the sight of charming mom-and-pop shops and colorful row houses.
This was not easy. In fact, it was very, very hard. But it was so completely worthwhile. It made me feel rested, and energized, and happy. I felt like I was seeing my surroundings for the first time. And loving them.
What does all of this have to do with writing? Well, the very best writers are noticers: People who take note of what is happening around them and translate those thoughts into words. Bridget Jones's Diary, for example, gained a huge fan base because Helen Fielding noticed the behavior of a certain type of woman and created an unforgettable character who exhibits that type of behavior. (And Bridget is an excellent noticer, herself.)
You can't notice things if you don't look up from your cell phone.
So here's your homework assignment: take a 15-minute walk without your cell phone. Heck, go crazy and make it 30 minutes. Look around you. What do you see? What colors? What type of people? What landscape? Even if you're just walking around your block, try to spot something that you've never seen before. You may want to write down your observations when you get home. You may just take mental notes of the things you see. Either way, you're exercising your body and your mind, so a cell phone-less walk is always a win-win proposition. Or so I've noticed.
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