I’ve been thinking a lot the past couple months about practicing versus performing. About allowing myself room to work at who I am, and lean into long-form writing as opposed to cute captions and bite-sized blog posts.
So much of what happens in the digital world feels like performing. And these performances feel so final. They feel like what people expect of us.
Yet practicing is what happens when you allow yourself space to ponder things outside the norm. It feels like asking “why?” more than the average adult. For many, the beauty of social media is the collaboration—the chance to ponder why together. But it’s possible unbridled collaboration takes place at the expense of internal soul searching and helpful discourse within intimate relationships.
When I spend too much time online, I worry I’m short-circuiting something inside of myself. The digital realm brings with it a constant drive to produce, to publish, and to get numbers up. I don’t think it’s true of everyone, but the performance mindset fueled by hyper-awareness of one another creates so much pressure that instead of rising to the occasion, I shut down.
And then I begin to worry, what if this pressure causes me to be less of who I’m meant to be? What if I’m not wired for modern culture? For social media? For the internet?
What if what I need more than anything at this stage in my life is not an outlet to perform, but an opportunity to practice. Practicing who I’m meant to be requires grit, something I’ve wanted to increase in for so long. I constantly think about how people lived for generations before me, and by necessity their lives were a form of long-form.
I keep a journal. Every weekday, I get up early and write three pages freehand. It’s a practice called morning pages that I learned from Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way. Cameron’s book was written in 1992, long before the internet became a part of our daily existence. Before we were all in a rush. I think creativity works best that way. I recently came across a blog post by Cameron titled “Social Media and Creative Energy.” In it, she addresses my concern that something in our art and in our lives might become short-circuited by the instant possibilities of digital feedback. She concludes,
“An artist must be immersed in life without being submerged in it. An artist must have enough solitude and enough connection. It takes practice, and the conscious building of daily ritual, but it is possible—quite possible—to find the precise balance of ‘inflow’ and ‘outflow’ we require to thrive.”
I first wrote about practicing versus performing in my journal in early July. For the past month, the idea has sat in the back of my mind. I told myself not to let my ideas be in a rush. That’s the realness of practice. It takes its time to get it right.
Every couple of months I’ll be talking to someone and the question, “What if we’re living in a simulation?” comes up. This train of thought always makes me smile. It sounds so absurd to me. Yet I can’t help but find it fun to ponder, “Okay, what if?”
When I was a kid, one of my favorite movies was the 1986 SpaceCamp. In it, there’s a scene where the camp’s would-be astronauts engage in a simulated space flight. Due to lack of focus and some tensions, their simulation fails. Following the crash, Kate Capshaw busts into the simulator and the kids’ excuses start flying. Then Capshaw says the line that always comes to mind when I think of this movie: “I don’t want to hear about it. I can’t hear about it. Do you know why? Because you’re all dead.” In short, they need more practice.
If we’re living in a simulation, then what a great time to try something new—to practice at being human. To get our feet under us before we crash and burn. To practice being aware. To become cognizant of myself and in tune with those I love who are within my inner circle every day. That’s what I want. To not need a phone or a constant connection to the internet. To want to be curious and follow a trail wherever it leads, and to see it result in a novel, not a social media post.
To give my energy—my full attention—on any given day to a limited number of things.
To be an occasional visitor to the digital world, not a resident.
I want to breathe. To ask why. Then ask why again.1