I just returned from vacation. My wife and I spent the last nine days with her family in Ireland. It was amazing.
I was forced to take a much-needed break from technology. No computer. No cell phone. Just me, a good book, and the open Irish road.
The result of this mini-sabbatical was nothing short of revelatory.
There is more to life than flickering pixels and online avatars. More than status updates and Google alerts.
There are picnics and fine cheeses and laughter around breakfast tables. There are jogs through the brisk morning air and crude British humor.
There is love and life abundant.
And some of us need to remember that.
It took a trip across the Atlantic Ocean for me to understand this, but I'm slowly learning the truth of this quote:
“Life is not a support system for art. It's the other way around.”
-Stephen King, On Writing
So often, I think that my life exists to support my obsessions — my love affair with writing and creativity and being acknowledged. But this isn't the case at all. Those are all means to an end.
When we treat our work as life — instead of a way to live — we fall out of balance and into unhealthy habits.
The only way out is to move in to something else. To step away and gain a new perspective. That's what I did during vacation. And there were three lessons I learned from my recent break from technology:
Lesson 1: Embrace your surroundings
I learned that the world is a beautiful place.
Granted, I was in Ireland — a land that is lush and verdant, but when I returned to Tennessee (equally as beautiful as the Emerald Isle in its own way) I was struck with the beauty of coming home.
I realized that my time away from the laptop and iPhone made this perspective possible.
And I'm grateful.
Lesson 2: Embrace your inner life
During my vacation, I had a lot of time to think, pray, and reflect. Much of this time was while surrounded by beautiful scenery or during extended times in the car (we did a lot of driving).
During such times, I would normally pull out my smartphone and check my email or tweet something clever. But I wasn't able to do that.
Instead, I was forced to ponder and dream. I was allowed to be creative again, no longer controlled by the urgency of the moment. I learned how to be proactive again, instead of merely reactive.
Lesson 3: Embrace inspiration from other sources
Oddly, this time wasn't filled with much writing. Other than some scribbles in my Moleskine from the plane ride and the first night in our bed and breakfast, I didn't write at all.
Instead of creating content, I consumed it. (This, admittedly, is something I have unfortunately been neglecting.)
I read books and listened to music and had life-giving conversations with perfect strangers. I held my wife's hand more than I usually do and drank delicious coffee and tea. (If you know me at all, you know that this is just as inspiring at powerful prose penned by a master.)
But weren't you writing all week?
For those of you who follow my blog and tweets, you may be tempted to call my bluff.
After all, I was seemingly writing and sharing all kinds of content while I was allegedly on vacation. (Just look at my blog and Twitter feed.)
Here's my secret: The day before I left, I hustled like crazy to write and schedule posts and tweets (and also had some help from a few guest bloggers).
In fact, I learned that I don't have to constantly be checking my online brand in order for it to still have an impact. But that's a lesson for another post.
A final challenge
If you are going to do creative work that will change the world, then there is one ingredient necessary to your success: rest.
You must take time to take care of your soul, to check in with your emotional self and make sure all is well with your inner life. This is essential — more than with any other type of work, in my opinion.
Because your vocation requires you to pull from within, to consult the genius inside of you, to reach into the depths of your soul and share it with the world — to inspire, encourage, challenge, and change.
I will say it again: If you endeavor to create, you must rest.
Granted, my last break from technology wasn't an intentional choice, but given what I learned, I intend to make breaks like this more of a regular discipline.
Further reading: 8 Simple Ways to Take a Technology Break
Have you ever gone on a technology fast? If so, what did you learn? Join the discussion in the comments.
*Photo credit: batintherain (Creative Commons)