I love writers retreats. My favorite is a semi-secret (because it's always full) retreat set in the magnificent rainforest of the Olympic Peninsula, in rustic cabins nestled on the shore of Lake Quinault. It's a veritable orgy of writing, talk about writing, study about writing, even (my special contribution) yoga for writers. I am supremely happy when I'm there.
The first years in particular were perfect because--wait for it--there was no internet. There wasn't even cell service. Though I'm a mother, a dog owner, a family person, I revelled in being cut loose for the four days of the retreat, thinking about nothing of the work-in-progress. It was a sort of self-indulgence, and artists of all stripes need a measure of selfishness to succeed.
Since the early days, the internet and cell phone connections have reached even to Lake Quinault, and that means I have to discipline myself. I use the internet all the time, naturally--I'm doing it now--but when it's time to work, when it's time to call on the muse and clear my mind so she can speak to me, it has to be off.
There's an internet meme going around that defines study as a verb meaning to text, surf, and play video games with an open textbook nearby. More seriously, a brain scientist at the University of Washington has written that multitasking doesn't work; that in fact, when we do it, none of the multiple tasks are effectively accomplished.
The great science fiction writer Greg Bear said once, "Don't abuse the muse." Distractions do. For some, music is not the distraction it is for me, and can be allowed. Television, however, news radio, the internet (love shopping online, and it takes no brain power!)--all these things dilute the workings of the mind, and make the muse work ten times as hard to serve up the ideas we need.
I'll be off to the rainforest soon. I'll have to use my own discipline to eliminate the distractions of connectivity--but it was nice when it was done for me!