As Digital Writing Month comes to a close I’ve been reflecting on my experience with the month long writing project. It’s unfortunate that DigiWriMo fell in the middle of a very busy month for me – between moving internationally and taking a two-week holiday to spend time with family and loved ones, it’s been difficult to maintain a regular writing schedule.
My DigiWriMo experience alongside my return to my home in Canada after two years of absence have reminded me of two important things – the importance of place and the joy of social networking in person.
Moving sucks – that’s a sentiment I feel pretty much everyone can agree with. Moving involves the stress of dismantling the life you have built in one place, packing it into boxes, and moving it somewhere else. Moving internationally, the second time I’ve done this in as many years, introduces another layer of stress, knowing that you will likely never see some of the people or places in that home again.
When planning my DigiWriMo project I forgot to take into consideration just how disruptive moving is to one’s routine. Routine is something that’s easy to take for granted because you barely notice its there. The time you wake up in the morning, what you eat for breakfast, what you do throughout your day, and how you choose to spend you evenings are products of your established routine.
Leaving Korea meant leaving my job. I foolishly thought that this would mean I’d have 40 hours more each week to spend working on projects like DigiWriMo. I assumed that if I could accomplish x amount of work with a job, I’d be able to produce x+40 without a job.
I could not have been more wrong. While it is true that I now have more free time now that I’m no longer working, my time seems to evaporate each day because I’ve yet to establish a productive routine. When I was working it was easy to get up at 6 am and write for half an hour because I had to get into the shower at 6:30 so that I could be dressed by 7:00 so Beth could have time to get ready before we left for work before we left for work at 8:00. That was my routine. Now I set the alarm for 6:30 each day only to wake up, ask myself why I need to get up that early, and go back to bed.
When it comes to writing, or any creative project, place is critically important. We imbue places with routines, with emotions, with significance. Environment shapes creativity. Moving pulls us out of our familiar environment and forces us into the unfamiliar. This can be good, giving us the chance to leave behind unproductive or unhealthy routines, or it can be bad, leading to creative stasis.
The best (or more accurately, worst) part of this is that I get to move twice. Once from Korea to my hometown as I visit family for Christmas and once from my hometown to London, Ontario where Beth and I will be making our new home. I’m fairly certain that by the time I establish a productive routine here, it will be time to move to London and start the whole process over.
The other thing I’ve come to appreciate in this month of chaos is the joy of social networking the old fashioned way – talking to people in person. For the past year I’ve been living in a rural town in a rural province in Korea. In my town there were probably 14 other English speakers, so my social interactions for the past year have been fairly limited. Because of this I’ve been more involved with social networks (primarily Facebook and twitter) than I have been in the past.
I’ve met so many interesting, kind, and just plain fantastic people on twitter in the past year that I’ve started to view this social network as my primary way my primary way of interacting socially with people. Since I’ve been back in my hometown I’ve been reconnecting with that remain in the area (most of my close friends have since moved to pursue various jobs, school, and/or relationships).
An experience I had yesterday really cemented for me that belief that while the internet is great and social networks are awesome, nothing replaces the simple joy of talking to people face-to-face
Yesterday I when up to my undergraduate university for the first time in about two and a half years. I went there to visit one of my old professors to ask him for his input on a project I’m working on (I’ll post more about this project next week). We caught up and discussed the project and his ideas for moving it forward. We talked for about 45 minutes. In that time we discussed dozens of topics, meandering across a number of different ideas and experiences.
As great as online social networks are (and they’re pretty great), they can’t beat face-to-face conversations. Talking to someone in person allows for more tangents, more asides, more fortuitous connections that wouldn’t be made in a more directed setting. In my experience online conversations tend to be more result driven. On twitter I ask a question, someone answers it. If there is a tangent, it tends to be closely related to the original question. Online discussions tend to lack the organic malleability that comes so naturally to face-to-face conversations.
After talking to the professor I went to visit the departmental secretary from my old program. She asked me if I still kept in touch with any of my friends from the program. I answered yes because I was friends with almost all of these people on Facebook. And then we started talking. Sheila, the departmental secretary, knew more about each of the friends and what they were doing than I did. She wasn’t Facebook friends with them, or a twitter follower, she talked to people and heard about what these people were doing through the grapevine – the original social network.
I had a lovely conversation with Sheila and learned more about the current state of the program and my friends than I had learned in two years of causal online social networking. Facebook makes it so easy to keep in touch with people that I hardly ever take the time to do it. It’s so easy to tell myself that I’ll write that message or send that email tomorrow that two years worth of tomorrows pass by in the blink of an eye.
Leaving Korea has reminded me that the strange online bubble that I’d been living in is not the only way of living. Now that I’m back in Canada I look forward to moving outside of my digital bubble more often, taking advantage of the best the real world and the online world have to offer.
Here’s to 2013. A year of new beginnings, new friends, both online and offline, and many, many more words of digital writing on ivrytwr.