On Saturday night I did something radical, something daring, something I was deeply and unreasonably afraid of. I feared this action might expose an emptiness in my life, that I would be doing something that worsened the ennui I’ve been suffering from at weekends lately. I knew I had to face this fear, regardless of what I would find lying beneath. And so I did it, I deleted Instagram from my phone.
During the day I’d taken a trip to Bristol to see a friend and was feeling gleeful at the prospect of a three hour train journey, time alone to gaze out of the window, read a book and spend time thinking about anything that took my fancy, unfettered by the innumerable distractions of being at home. I selected a book from the large pile by my bed and settled upon Elizabeth Cairn’s The Empowered Entrepreneur, a book I’d had for a few weeks but never seemed to find the time to sit down and read.
Elizabeth is my amazing business coach and is someone who has had a profound effect on both me and my business in the six months that I’ve known her. Elizabeth has an uncanny knack of saying something that seems on the surface to be innocuous and unimportant, the sort of thing that I tend to brush over and disregard, only to find later that her insight, or more usually a question that she asks, has lodged in my brain like an earworm and stubbornly refused to budge.
A need for space
This is what happened on Saturday when I read the chapter in her book on ‘Space’. Here Elizabeth talks about how the lack of space in our modern lives is affecting our creativity and diminishing our wonder at the world. One of her suggested remedies is to take a break from social media from Thursday night to Monday morning. There was something about her suggesting Thursday rather than Friday that piqued my subconscious interest. Is it really alright, as the owner of a business that depends almost entirely upon Instagram, to remove it for a whole day during the working week? Would my business survive? Would I? I spent the rest of the day mulling this over in the moments between conversations with my friends – what on earth would I do all day? Would I be bored? What if someone needed to ask me something? Would I miss my friends?
The only thing that ever conquers fear is action and so when I went to bed that night I summoned up some courage, held my breath and pressed delete. Instagram disappeared from my screen with no ceremony, no fizz or sparkle, it just vanished ingloriously.
The morning was fairly uneventful. We went for breakfast and the three of us left our phones at home. I would like to say we had meaningful conversations over our meal but for much of it we were away in our own thoughts. I sat watching Evan, so always glued to the screen of his phone, absorbed in the goings on in the restaurant, the waiting staff carrying food, the hustle and bustle of the customers and the comings and goings of the many dogs. It made me happy to see him taking in his surroundings and being present in the world.
My own thoughts turned to what I wanted to do with my day, now that I knew I would not be working (something else I’d resolved to do less of at the weekend to bring more space into my life) and I decided that I wanted to paint. Artistic expression is something that has been sorely missing from my life lately and I wanted to do something that got me into ‘flow’ and gave me a break from thinking about my business.
Rediscovering London wanders
In the afternoon Evan had a party in Bloomsbury to attend and after dropping him off Richard and I decided, rather than going straight home as we would normally have done, to take a walk to Lambs Conduit Street. We enjoyed ambling and chatting and taking in the surroundings of this pretty part of London. And for me, with Instagram not being front of mind, I felt absolutely no need to take a single photo. It felt rebellious and pleasingly mutinous.
We found a sweet cafe where we stopped for coffee and cake. Edward was made a fuss of and trotted around greeting every customer, as he likes to do. Richard and I talked, really talked, rather than defaulting to our phones as we would normally do (him to Twitter, me to Instagram).
Re-immersion in creative pursuits
After this we wandered past the British Museum and by happy chance found the wonderful Cornelissen art shop open, I spent a delightful half hour choosing some gouche paints and a new brush and was excited to get home and try them out. Gouache is a new medium for me and I thoroughly enjoyed beginning to work my way through the exercises in Dinara Mirtalipova’s utterly gorgeous book ‘Imagine a Forest’. I just know, in my heart, that if I’d not deleted Instagram from my phone I would not have spent this precious time on creating something. I know I would have sat on the sofa mindlessly scrolling Instagram, consuming rather than creating, and complaining of feeling bored and uninspired.
I went to bed last night feeling like I’d broken through something. I’d conquered a fear and removed a crutch from my life. I found the joy that was lying beneath and for the first time in a long time I can honestly say I enjoyed a normal, uneventful Sunday in London. I wasn’t bored or melancholy and I wasn’t resentful that we didn’t have an exciting day planned.
This morning I got out of bed and sat down to to write this blog post. A choice I made over deferring right away to Instagram. And so I’ve started this week already feeling like I’ve already got something important done. I’m ready now to download Instagram again and am ready to tackle the working week. I’m looking forward to reconnecting with the online world and seeing what my friends have been up to. I’m ready to consume information again but I know next weekend I will be pressing that delete button again.
You can buy Elizabeth’s inspiring book on her website here.
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