“Phone is an enemy of creativity”. Interview with Grammy-winner singer and song writer Corinne Bailey Rae
Creative people appreciate the value of being off the grid. A US rapper Kanye West famously tweeted that he got rid of his smartphone to have “air to create”. British musician Ed Sheeran, according to some critics, has written his “best album ever yet” after taking a full digital detox.
So when representatives of Grammy-award winning British singer and songwriter Corinne Bailey Rae contacted me and said Corinne would like to record a podcast with me for her new album and talk about being in the moment, I instantly knew we’ll have lots to talk about. We talked about the importance of listening to our inner selves, and how gadgets can prevent us from doing this. First Corinne interviewed me for her podcast and later I interviewed her for my book Homo Distractus.
Below is the extract from our conversation for my chapter about creativity and the value of unplugging for Homo Distractus.
Recovering from a loss of my first husband took me away from people and noise of everyday life. As I had lots of time on my own, I realized how many internal resource we have to repair ourselves, how much internal wisdom we have. And so when I started going out of that period, I wanted to keep listening to my inner voice, my intuition, to keep paying attention to people and whatever made me happy.
For me being in the moment is a key. In the creative world the highs are really high, but they can easily be disintegrated if we are not “drinking them” at the time. For example, if after a gig instead of talking to people I need to do something related to business, or post something on social media, I can just feel how this subtle feeling, creative spirit, is disappearing.
It’s so difficult to be in the moment. I remember an episode, when I was really lucky to work with my hero Stevie Wonder, and when being in the same room with him, I had this thought at the back of my mind: “This would make an amazing photo!” This thought was taking me right out of the moment, and I don’t want this to happen.
I once went to see Prince’s concert, and he got lots of people on stage from the public to dance with him. And there was one who spent the whole 10 minutes she was on the stage begging someone from the public to throw her phone to her. She was not in the moment for any single second! Another example, at the inauguration of Obama, when he and Michelle were dancing, all invited guests were filming this dance with cameras. This is ridiculous, this was a national event, of course CNN was covering it, they surely wouldn’t have got better quality on their mobiles than CNN. So what was the point?
This is the event that will never happen again! Every moment is unrepeatable. In pursue of trying to capture something in technology we miss on life itself. I’m keen not to miss on my own life.
I do make rules for myself in terms of how to use technology, but I am also quite disorganized so I like to go with the flow. I do some social media to a small degree, but I am very conscious that for one good Instagram photo you need to take 15 shoots, and it takes you out of the moment. In private life, I always keep my phone on silent, just looking at it once in a while, and sometimes discover that it’s ringing, so then I pick it up and it’s a good coincidence. Of course, if I am shopping with my husband and we go to different parts of the supermarket, I’ll keep it on.
I have a set up for friends that they just can come around to my house without calling me.
For creative work I definitely like to get lost in the moment. There’s no way I could work with my phone near me, checking whether I have a new Instagram like, so lots of time my phone is just not in the same room. I just go to it as if it were an answering machine.
I don’t want to constantly present my life as idealized and don’t feel I have to be an ultraversion of myself. My brand is about a more natural presentation of myself anyways, so I feel a lot less pressure to keep up with the buzz, I guess I am lucky.
For me the main danger is not so much always being on, but constantly getting comments. 50 people may say “you look nice”, but if there is just one odd or negative comment, it will stay with you. It’s no good to hear too many positive things, either, but negative things told directly into your phone are difficult, phone just feels too private to me.
If you are a creative person, you should have time to develop whatever you are working on. I know many committed writers who are not on Twitter for this reason. You think of a funny thing you’d write now, but if you leak it out into the public space too early, it will take away the potency of the idea.
Contemporary artist Tracey Emin says that the phone is an enemy of creativity, and I tend to agree. It creates the interruption you don’t need.
I would rather get out of the studio and see that I have missed 3 calls, rather than ask myself – what was I doing, was I recording something, when I got interrupted? Give up the idea you’re missing out.
Sometimes you will miss out on something, but sometimes you’ll have a massive 3 hour chat with your friend, and if you were to move somewhere just because other friends were there, you would lose this opportunity. Not every choice has to be made. Sometimes you have just to be where you are, giving your attention to this particular person. Otherwise you are never really fully there.
Tech can be massive help to creativity, but you have to choose it. I consciously go online to do some research, but sometimes I notice: I have looked already on this website twice today, there isn’t really anything new here. On my screen I have a reminder “Go outside” popping out, which helps. I also sometimes write down “next time I’ll look at this or that”. I can definitely be really sucked into browsing pages, like staying for hours on Pinterest.
So you have to keep being very aware, and conscious, whether you are you even enjoying your browsing? Am I really wanting to see what I am seeing, or am I doing it out of habit? So when I am thinking that I am not enjoying all these images, I just close it, and go outside.
This interview has been recorded for Anastasia’s new book Homo Distractus: Fight for your choices and identity in the digital age. Grab your copy here.
Text by Taylah Donegan
With reportedly over 2 million people in South Korea considered to have an internet addiction (one of the highest numbers in the world), Koreans have finally started to notice the dangers of unbalanced use of devices. A number of popular TV entertainment shows are choosing to focus on the relationships between humans and technology.
On the 19th March 2016, Lee Sedol, a Korean champion in an ancient intellectual game of Go (or baduk), lost to the artificial intelligence program AlphaGo, produced by Google. The game that can last for several hours and has been likened to Chess in the West is one of the most popular ones in Korea, and Lee's setback was covered by the likes of Sky news and CNN.
In spite of his loss, Lee Sedol's popularity in Korea rose even more, especially amongst people who weren’t originally a fan of the game. His loss became a talking point in many Korean shows, and became the inspiration for an episode on a very popular TV show Running Man, which focused on Man vs Machine and tried to show how overdependent we have become on our devices,
Low tech challenges
Running Man is a Korean variety show that has been on the air for almost six years and has become a household name. The cast meet weekly to film the show which follows the format of small missions that lead into a final mission. This time, producers chose to give the cast a variety of tasks that highlighted just how dependent its citizens are on technology.
Missions such as making the members navigate themselves around the city without the use of a GPS caused a panic within cast members, in which several members exclaimed that they have never even used a map before in their lives. Interestingly, this issue was seen to not be generational, as oldest member Ji SukJin, who is 50 years old, had the most problems navigating himself around Seoul.
Other tasks included trying to win a match against a robotic arm in a game of balloon popping, and playing against a high tech computer in a popular Korean word association game, which in many ways resembled Lee Sedol’s match against the AlphaGo.
They resisted, but then enjoyed it
The challenges were initially detested by most of the members, comedian Kim Junho even exclaimed that he felt like a stress test lab rat.
However, over the course of the week, the cast began to notice that actually spending time with each other, and without technology coming literally in-between them, helped them to appreciate the value of one another, and loved ones, gaining relationships over convenience, and experiences that were analog - not digital.
In later episodes after that particular mission was over, some of the members even stated that they did try and reduce their usage of smart phones when they could. Overall, this particular episode did well, and the program even extended the mission to female comedians, when the show later expanded.
Running Man is not the first Korean show to highlight the issue of tech dependency. In late 2012, entertainment show The Human Condition challenged a group of comedians to live for one week without the use of smartphones, the Internet and television for their pilot episode, in a sort of social experiment.
With Korean rehabilitation clinics for Internet and gaming addiction on the rise, and with 1 in 4 teenagers diagnosed with Internet addiction attending these clinics, it is extremely important and beneficial that these major entertainment companies continue to tackle this issue from the source, and continue to showcase the effects of Internet dependency in a light hearted manner that allows conversation to begin.
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Dr Anastasia Dedyukhina is a keynote speaker, author of Homo Distractus, professional coach and a pioneer of the Consciously Digital™ concept.