Smartphone: writer’s friend or foe?

My phone, my constant companion, offers me some great tools, but is it really good for me?

I have been tracking my phone use with the Yourhour app for months now. Recently I switched off it’s tracking of certain apps like phone use, WordPress and Kindle app. The plan is I to hone in on where I “waste” time. The hours of use recorded are not quite as high.

I have a good excuse to ignore these stats. I read on my way to work which I think is a good use of two bus journeys. I talk to my mum for an hour every week or so, that one is essential. And I also turn off monitoring of my blog activity: this is my outlet, my glimpse into the world of new books and other creative people.

Only willing to share my morning stats!

But still, I worry when I see the figure so high. Hours of my day off last week glued to my phone. I know why, I needed a day to recover and chose to slouch in front of the tv, browsing the internet. I was tired after two nights out and knew I was up late to go to a friends leaving do. And did I mention I have been experiencing insomnia again.

Of course I have read much about sleep and screen time with regards to my little man. We are trying to reduce screens for a few hours before his bedtime but I do not give myself the same courtesy. I use a blue light filter and screen shade on my phone which should mitigate the effects of the screen before bed. But when my sleep is poor, I have regular headaches and my mood is effected by it all, can I really say this phone is my friend?

Well, maybe. Here are six great ways your phone is your writerly friend

1. Social Media Blogging, tweeting and on #BookBlogger Instagram is a fun place to be. Although social media does seem to suck up hours of your time, it will also give you the most amazing, tailored to-be-read pile. It helps you keep up with the industry, publishing trends, genres you love and meet great people who may even read your book one day.

The downside: not only do I get hooked on finding more people to follow, I get lost online. If you’re not careful, you never really interact with anyone at a deep level and have used up time you could be writing. Sometimes you have to admit to yourself Twitter is just procrastination.

2. Browse your manuscript. Twiddling with your manuscript if you pay for the Word app or at least keep notes on it is a good use of time I am sat in a traffic queue on the bus. It’s amazing the typos you spot when you revisit a scene for just a few minutes.

The downside: You can always change a verb in one sentence but I find I still haven’t got to the end. Work does need to be polished but do you need to work endlessly on one sentence, if you haven’t yet got a full draft?

3. Editing tools Grammarly is an essential add-on and I also had a version of the Hemingway App on my old phone. Both allow you to paste text in and check it. It’s always interesting what it can pick up that you may miss. Hemingway certainly tells me off for my adverbs and passive voice (haha). Like anything, you can take as much advice as you like but I think they are useful.

The downside: copying and pasting across work, creating an endless list of new drafts you’re working on because it contains the correction. It can get very confusing. Also, is Hemingway really my writing goal, I’m not sure I enjoy his work that much.

4. Voice memos a great way to write dialogue is to say it out loud, even better if you record a conversation. If you enjoy the acting part of writing, this is a great way to think about how intonation comes across in your writing. Can you give clues to their mood? The sisters in my novel argue a lot so this has been great way for me to develop their voices.

The downside: there may be things that just never get written up. Because of this I duplicate work. Also using memos when I am out and about means I have recordings ruined by ambulance sirens or I have stopped mid-sentence when I realise someone is coming the other way and they might think I am talking to myself.

5. Read more As I have mentioned, I consider the Kindle app an essential but what about all of those other interests I can pursue at random? Yes, we rely on Google and Wikipedia to learn about something quickly. I am really interested in Folklore so I flit through articles on this topic, littered too with interests of my son and my guilty pleasure: gossip from Bravo. Googles front page on my phone is certainly a strange mix. Some of this time reading may be considered more worthy than others but it’s also sparking ideas, I don’t know how I would cope without instantaneous information.

The downside: We all know the internet is full of unedited, unsourced ideas. It’s so wonderful having everything at our fingertips but it also requires a savvy approach to take in what you are reading and constantly filter the information. I love researching this way at the start of an idea, but honestly I see it as a jumping off point. Research into something I am writing about in more depth, I still think I need a library day.

6. Pinterest This is a good research tool too despite my above proviso, I love Pinterest for keeping my interests in one place. I am just setting up my business site but I have enjoyed the personal site for years. It is a great way to remember where you have put something on the internet. I also love to collect and post inspiring quotes.

The downside: again you can get lost at procrastination station. Like many places on the internet, it gives you false ideas of what you can achieve. Whether it’s beautiful bullet journals or cake decoration ideas that “nailed it” meme is just too accurate. If comparison is the thief of joy, then Pinterest may be the thief of your artistic self-esteem.

Given the pros and cons of using your phone to support your writing, I have been questioning how I can reduce my use and still enjoy the tools.

My plan is to try a digital and reading detox. Julia Cameron reccomends it in The Artist’s Way programme. Part of this will mean no Twitter, no Kindle, no Pinterest for a week. Reading only essential things like work emails. I will report back and let you know how it goes…

Have you ever tried a digital detox?

Renew Your Motivation

Can you finish up the year even stronger than the start?


In The Artist’s Way Julia Cameron advises you to look for synchronicity. She believes, I think, that this is the Universe or a Creator is guiding us down a path of creativity. As I work through the last few weeks of the programme, I have become more attuned somehow to this sense of synchronicity. And it’s very pleasing when it happens.


I will be writing more about the final stages of my journey through her programme in the next few weeks but I did read when you finish up, she wants you to commit to 90 days more of writing Morning Pages and at least weekly Artist’s Dates. Well on the same day I read this, I spotted Rachel Hollis is promoting #last90days. A way to finish out the year even more motivated than you started it. It felt like I just had to give it a try.


The commitments she asks you to make seem to line up well with Cameron’s ideas but the main one I am going to focus on is to give myself that hour a day. I may not be able to use an hour every morning. I have shifted some of my to-do tasks as well Morning Pages to before school already. And I have written in my guide how challenging that can be. She is right that I could get up an hour early. This may well be one answer but as my son tends to be an early riser, I suspect it will be an hour divided.


There is something really invigorating about committing to a programme. Although I don’t like to cut out or restrict food, I think Hollis’ “Five to Thrive” are a reminder to take care of ourselves. I am going to using her prompts too as they send weekly emails and I think having a focus can be inspiring

From Rachel Hollis, the Five to Thrive commitments


The main reason though that I think it’s a good idea to amp up your motivation at this time of year is to get you through the slog of colder days and darker nights. Autumn may be my favourite season to write but Winter will follow quickly after and in setting ourselves up to end the year positively, I am preparing myself to feel the best that I can in the SAD season.


By writing about this commitment and sharing that I want to work on my writing an hour every day, I hope you will keep me accountable. Better yet, why not join me? I’d love to hear from anyone who is committing to a brilliant end to this year.

How far do you think ahead?

For many weeks I have been making steps to develop my creativity, but pursuing The Artist’s Way programme is also about planning ahead.

I want to keep week eight of Artist’s Way a secret. It’s all about finding strength and taking steps towards your ultimate goals. I don’t mind talking in general terms that my goal is to get creative work published but fantasizing about your dream life: that should be private


What Cameron is asking you to do is to look at those goals then break them down into five year, year, month and week plans. It’s a little intimidating and to be honest my resolution has been “finish the damn draft” for a long time.


What was interesting was reflecting on the other dreams that came up for me. This relates to the exercise she sets in week seven around jealousy. Cameron tells us “jealousy is a map” again, it’s horrible to admit that you feel professional jealousy towards others but it’s also a useful tool.

“Jealousy is a map”

If you care so much about what someone else is doing, you may understand what would really make you happy.


In completing the tasks she set I identified my desire to work on a play, to write poetry. I think writing a novel is a very isolated experience. Both these other dreams require me putting myself out there more. It also identified for me that I really didn’t know what the next steps were to pursue these dreams. And she does want you to make practical steps.


I think I am very good at dreaming about the end result but visions of finding your book at the airport, don’t help you get to the finish line. In thinking about my goals it motivated me to work more. I have worked on a short story, written and promoted more blog posts and started to develop the early parts of my novel as I am switching my timeline around. And I have to admit it’s yielding results, my readership though small was more this month than all previous months and I feel a renewed vigour for my work that I haven’t for a while.


Hope is one thing, but I think as you are working towards your creative recovery, Cameron wants you to work forward, step-by-step.

Creativity is Spirituality, Maybe?

This week The Artist’s Way programme asked me to dig deeper into spiritual practice by putting down my book and my phone.

Week four has asked a lot of me. Firstly, Julia Cameron prescribes a reading detox. Her more recent update here suggests this is actually a full on media deprivation. Well I  failed. I have known for a while.my phone usage is off the chart. I justify some of the excessiveness because my phone is where I:

  • Read books on Kindle
  • Listen to books on Audible
  • Write and read posts on WordPress
  • Keep up with the #WritingCommunity on Twitter
  • Keep up-to-date on Goodreads

Without excusing myself completely this could all be counted as work right now. It also gives me a sense of community whilst also, of course, writing into the abyss.

My phone is also my crutch, a place where I do not just “work” as I tried to describe it above, but also where I play mindless games. Where I listen to funny podcasts. Where I watch cleaning videos of YouTube. These are less productive, but still part of my down time.

Painting of Woman reading, reclined
Actual image of me reading….Painting by Gustave Courbet, Photo on by Cliff on Flickr

As a nod to the process I did delete some game apps so that I only do a daily Sudoku on there while my husband’s TV is on. But it is a concession to what she asks of us in this week. Alongside this process I have also got a GoodReads Challenge on the go and wanted to get back to that. At least being mindful of my phone time, gave me chance to read. But this isn’t what she means.

So I suppose I admit what I find hardest was adjusting not just to a new way of life, less dependent on my phone, but also the spiritual element that this chapter was talking about. For me, it is very difficult to believe in what she believes in. What I have done more of though is incorporate meditation into my mornings again. This quiet that she believes can help creativity, it’s something I crave too.  Reading deprivation is at least a little further forward in my mind now. It’s a tool I will probably come back to but for now, I copped out of this week’s challenge, making smaller changes instead.

I would love to know if anyone else has tried a reading deprivation or phone detox? I can’t be the only one to find it hard.

What prompted you today?

Inspiration just strikes you, not out of nowhere because it’s everywhere.

Prompts are everywhere. I’m starting to feel more creative as I unblock myself, but I can’t control when a burst comes out. I started to write that a character has allergies. This is not too much of a stretch. Pollen is high and I am waking with eyes streaming. Also, this young woman has moved from her urban life to be out in the countryside, she may even encounter hay.

Corn field in sharp summer light, my nose is running just looking at it,

Instead of writing this into a scene as I set out to do. She has run off into the fields, which I suddenly feel like I am making a political point about Theresa May which isn’t really what I intended. When I sit to write, a short poem comes out. Poetry class was probably one of the hardest things I have ever tried to do. I was privileged to be coached by poet Mary Salter, who also happens to edit and compile every English student’s favourite the Norton Anthology. You would be hard pressed to get some one less knowledgeable.

As well as puzzling over my challenging grammar, apparently you don’t usually just leave it out of poems unless you are masterful like ee cummings. I am not. It was eye opening and I tried to work harder at learning the rules. Breaking them intentionally now. My US classmates were so much better because they are taught a very rigorous programme on grammar and punctuation throughout school. Mind you, that may have made me worse. I hated with a passion doing Hayden Richards at school (anyone else remember him?) despite English always being my favourite subject. I think I have years of sentence naming etc. ahead with my son’s schooling so I will probably get a few more lessons. It can’t hurt.

What poetry class really thought me though is the immense power in word choice. Always read aloud, the meter but also the depth of each word chosen could send you off in endless editing circles. So, a page of poetry instead of prose this morning. It is very poorly constructed – no doubt the commas in the wrong place, but also peppered with a pleasing number of crossings out as I decide between sunken chest rib. The pleasure in writing poetry (and no doubt pain) is the luxury to mull over every word. As I edit the damn draft, I can stop and chose the crucial word, read out loud and choose what feels perfect for me. If I do ever get it into the hands of an editor, they can help me do it all over again, many times over.

I will be publishing my update on the Artist’s Way programme tomorrow, here‘s what has happened before. I think I can see already that I am being more creative and it has been powerful giving over to the inspiration.

What’s inspired you today?