I've enjoyed some of the articles that appeared over the New Year about the value of silence. Switching off the laptop and stepping away from the iphone is this year's geek equivalent to going to the gym in January. Disconnecting is as hip in 2012 as connecting was in 2011. Everyone is switching off for the weekend as people try to kick the digital habit. There is even a new meal time game called 'Don't be a Dick During Meals with Friends' which requires everyone to put their phone in the middle of the table during a meal. The first one to pick it up to check their email or tweet has to pay for everyone's meal.
I've recently been resisting the urge to reach for the iPhone as a way of finding time to daydream. Daydreaming is important. Soon after we leave the education system we find ourselves in jobs that require us to unlearn the behaviours drilled into us from our first days in the classroom. Daydreaming is probably one of the most of forbidden rules of the classroom, focus us everything, which is a nightmare for a young mind. As Alison Gopnik points out in 'The Philosophical Baby' it's not that children can't focus they're just not very good at not noticing.
I love this quote from Virginia Woolf in her novel 'To The Lighthouse' which I stumbled upon via John Lehrer:
Certainly she was losing consciousness of the outer things. And as she lost consciousness of outer things, her mind kept throwing things up from its depths, scenes and names, sayings, memories and ideas, life a fountain spurting over that glaring, hideously difficult white space.
The fountain spurting out over the difficult what space is such a wonderful metaphor for the virtues of mind wandering in creativity. Allowing your daydreams to shuffle all those memories you have neatly stored away, remixing moments without your control and then spurting them out as a stream of visions you feel you had not active part in creating. What a perfect way to fill that blank page.
As screens steal our attention more and more the need to schedule daydreaming into our day is something we should all think about if we want to be creative in what we do. Close the laptop, put the phone away, use that spare 15 minutes you suddenly found in your day to let your mind wonder rather than giving it away to a device.