I deleted all of my game apps today.
At first, I kept my two Bonzas (National Geographic and regular) and my beloved Solebon Solitaire because … well, come on. You gotta have something to do when there’s train traffic ahead and you’re stuck underground for an extra three minutes. But, then I started to write this piece and, “I deleted most of my game apps,” just wasn’t impactful enough.
I’ve been thinking about getting rid of my games for a while. I have no idea how much time I spend crushing candy or tapping dollar signs in Springfield each day, but I know it’s a lot. Meanwhile, I’m always rationalizing that the reason I don’t write or read more is that I simply don’t have the time.
Here’s how my day starts too many mornings:
Wake up, grab phone to check time; roll my eyes because once again, I’ve slept less than 4 hours.
The phone and I head to the bathroom. On the way, I tell my Amazon Alexa good morning so I can hear her dumb joke or interesting fact of the day. By the time I’m peeing, I’m two moves into my first Candy Crush game.
From the toilet, I ask Alexa to play NPR then I sit and listen to the news while swiping Tic Tacs and Gobstoppers across the screen, usually until I’ve exhausted all five lives. Sometimes if I’m on a good run, I’ll play long enough to get a sixth one. It’s those moments I hate myself the most. Fortuitously, today wasn’t one of those days.
This morning, “On the Air” was on when I had Alexa play NPR. They were featuring a segment called, “In Defense of Boredom,” and talking about how constant stimulation via our smart phones is keeping us from thinking creatively.
The guest was Manoush Zomorodi, author of “Bored and Brilliant: How Spacing Out Can Unlock Your Most Productive and Creative Self,” and her theory is that we need those distraction-less moments when we’re waiting on the coffee to brew or the bus to arrive, to give our brains space to be imaginative and do some “autobiographical planning” for our lives, creative and otherwise.
Halfway through game two, I put my phone down and by the end of the show, I’d started deleting apps and thinking about writing this essay. Over the couple of hours I’ve spent working on the post, with intermissions to make breakfast and refill my coffee, I’ve reached for my phone no less than 5 times to try to open Candy Crush. Once was to see out how long it takes for a life to regenerate, the other times were to play a quick game.
Each time I remembered I’d just deleted all my apps, I experienced a pang of sadness and regret. Phone games are my go-to when I get stuck on what I want to say next when I’m writing. I’ll hit a mini roadblock and think, “I’ll just crush some candy for a second until I come up with the next idea.”
The problem is, it never lasts for just a second … and way too often, I never come back to that next paragraph to finish writing. Instead, I go into a cycle of flipping between apps so I have a constant flow of gaming lives while my real, creatively unproductive one ticks by. Like I alluded to, I rarely sleep more than four hours a night, so I’ve got 20 hours a day to work with. I could be getting so much more done that’s a lot more satisfying than passing levels and earning bonus candies. So, I decided to give boredom a shot.
Three hours in, I’ve already posted to my blog more than I have in months. Let’s see how things go from here.