by Lisa Norman
Are you feeling any tech stress? I know that I am. Hang with me for a moment, and I promise there is a happy ending to this post.
Some things I've heard authors say recently:
Change is the only constant, it seems.
But the problem is: change isn't a constant. Change is an exponential function!
When I was in college, we talked about Moore's Law — about how the speed and storage capacity of computers would increase exponentially. Moore thought we would reach a point where they couldn't get any better. Moore's Law was replaced by the Law of Accelerating Returns.
An analysis of the history of technology shows that technological change is exponential, contrary to the commonsense “intuitive linear” view. So we won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century — it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today’s rate). The “returns,” such as chip speed and cost-effectiveness, also increase exponentially. There’s even exponential growth in the rate of exponential growth. Within a few decades, machine intelligence will surpass human intelligence, leading to The Singularity — technological change so rapid and profound it represents a rupture in the fabric of human history. The implications include the merger of biological and nonbiological intelligence, immortal software-based humans, and ultra-high levels of intelligence that expand outward in the universe at the speed of light.Ray Kurzweil
That was written in 2001.
Skip the grandiose predictions for the future and just recognize the prediction that the 21st century's progress will be like 20,000 years of what has gone before. We are living in a time of change so astronomical that it is hard to keep up.
The AI revolution is here, and even the most technically minded and future-looking experts are getting worried.
And despite the requests for a pause, most experts believe that not only will development not pause, it will speed up. AI is the nuclear arms race of technology, and we're only seeing the first glimmers of the supernova that is coming to our culture.
Let's talk for a moment about basic survival as artists in times of change. I grew up in a world without computers. I've seen a lot of technological change in my life, and I've watched a lot of creatives struggle.
When we talk about culture change, writers and creatives are critical in helping the rest of society adapt.
We have two basic choices: to adapt or not.
This is a nuanced question as each person faces their own limitations and challenges. I know writers who still write with pen and ink. Someone on Reddit accused me of being overly snarky recently for suggesting that choosing not to adapt was an option.
But I was being honest and trying to be caring. It is an option, and, for some writers, a powerful one. I wrote the first draft of this article with a stylus, because I wanted something close to the feeling of a pen. I wanted to slow down and think.
Don't judge those around us who choose not to embrace the latest technology. They are respecting their creative spirit. They may need to feel the flow of words tactilely.
Others may choose to embrace the change, bringing that new power into their writing. Likewise, don't judge.
Why? Because the one constant is change. Respecting the choices of others is powerful.
I know a NYT bestselling author who maintains an old version of a word processor on a non-internet-connected machine just for writing. Certainly hasn't hurt her success.
But what if the change goes deeper than just adaptation? What if you start to feel the walls closing in and the tension building?
You have choices. You can choose to ignore some new technology, wait until it is more developed, or play only with the toys that will make your life easier. Exercise your right to choose how and what you adapt to.
Have a plan.
Step one is often to step away. Get outside. Walk in nature. Take a tech holiday. Tell everyone you're going off the grid for a bit. A day… A week… Longer if necessary.
As creatives, we must respect and protect our mental health. Writing and creating takes time, and when the world around you is spinning at the speed of a super-computer, filling your mind with every ping of your phone… step away. Take a moment.
If you find you are losing yourself in the day-to-day pressures, do what is necessary to step away.
Like my author friend who picked up a fountain pen to reconnect with his creative spirit, find what you need.
You may find that after a time away, you are more adaptable. Or you may find your priorities are clear and you know this change can wait for you.
Just-in-time (JIT) is a powerful technique developed by the manufacturing industry and applied to making parts available for assembly just as they were needed.
The concept here is not to learn what you don't need right now. If you think you will need to learn how to edit a video next year, don't study it now. Study it next year. Why? Because technology will change by then, and what you learn today will be obsolete then.
Use this principle to take away some of the "should" stress in your life. When someone suggests that you "should" be a master of advertising on a particular platform, think: do I actually need this today? If not, then you "should-not" study it today. Study it when you are ready to use it.
Here's a very modern example. Want to automate your social media posts? (By the way: there are reasons not to do this...) How you would do this a month ago is different from how you can do it today.
Give yourself grace. You aren't behind on your technical skills. You're practicing just-in-time learning.
While the world is spinning faster and faster, don't be afraid to look to the past for peace. Consider meditation or prayer, yoga, or other options to help you reconnect with yourself and the spirit that drives your creativity.
Enjoy time with your pets. Work on a tactile hobby that you may have set aside.
Remember your goals and what drives you as a creative. This is especially important for introverts.
If you are an extrovert, connect with humans. Talk about the experiences you are having. Explore options together. Maybe you connect with a group of other writers and each of you commit to explore one new technology and share it with the group. Work together. Also: keep an eye on your friends during these stressful days. Be there to help and encourage each other.
This may be counter-intuitive, but if you see a new technology that catches your interest, play! When I was first teaching computers, I noticed that those who used them to play games became more comfortable with the new technology. When we feel like we must race to learn and perform, play can feel wrong. Play can feel like a distraction. I assure you: play is one of the best things you can do for your stress that will actually help you manage technological change with ease.
As creatives, we are more needed today than ever before. Our creations can influence change and improve the possibility of a brighter future.
Your pen, your voice, your next AI–inspired creation, could be exactly the thing someone on the planet needs in order to see that brighter future. Or it might be the healing that helps them adapt and survive.
Respect your creative spirit. Know that no matter how fast the world is changing around you, you have control over your responses.
Have you been feeling any tech stress lately? What ideas do you have for survival?
* * * * * *
Lisa Norman's passion has been writing since she could hold a pencil. While that is a cliché, she is unique in that she wrote her first novel on gum wrappers. As a young woman, she learned to program and discovered she has a talent for helping people and computers learn to work together and play nice. When she's not playing with her daughter, writing, or designing for the web, you can find her wandering the local beaches.
Lisa writes as Deleyna Marr and is the owner of Deleyna's Dynamic Designs, a web development company focused on helping writers, and Heart Ally Books, LLC, an indie publishing firm.
Interested in learning more from Lisa? Sign up for her newsletter to see upcoming classes on her brand new learning platform!
Top Image by Stefan Keller from Pixabay
Copyright © 2023 Writers In The Storm - All Rights Reserved
This article is timely and wonderful. While I belong to FB and Instagram, I severely curtail my activity to check-ins for birthdays and such. I won't be sucked into the vacuum of constant contact with the world. Thanks for writing this.
You're welcome, Luther. Hold tight and enjoy the extra writing time and peace that gives you!
I do practice what you recommend in that I learn about what pertains to my life and don't worry too much about the rest. What irritates me is dealing with those who are utilizing technology they have no capacity to understand. For instance, an agency requesting that you submit a form online. Okay, simple. But then you go to the site and they've managed to over complicate the process and you're lost. Whether it's 2023 or 1923, the ability to communicate clearly and concisely is a skill that's too often overlooked. Just because you know how the engine works doesn't mean you know how to drive.
This is so true, Christina! I've heard from computer pros for years that many things should be functioning better than they are. Hopefully some of these hurdles will start to smooth out as people learn to use the tech well. We'll just have to wait and see. These are the tech stress that is so hard to avoid because it is imposed on us by others. Deep breaths! Sci Fi writers envision a future where some of that is better. Hopefully those on the other end of those forms start catching the vision of a time when tech can smooth these headaches rather than cause them!
Did you hit the nail on the head.
Didn't she just? Today my daughter was telling me about an online form she'd been fighting. She said, "It kept dragging me down into rabbit holes, and I have no idea if I'm even in the right hole!" I have to admit, part of me is really hoping for a simplification stage of development!
I really appreciate this post, Lisa. I’ve definitely been feeling some tech stress, and I’m no Luddite, having acquired my first computer, an Atari ST, while still in college in the 1980s. But, as you noted, Dr. Kurzweil’s prediction about the explosion in the pace of change is being born out, especially with A.I., which seemingly threatens to change nearly everything.
My concerns as a writer are to not lose my identity in all this. I’ve come to realize, far more than I did when I bought that Atari in January 1986 to write college papers and short stories on, that, for me, writing is thinking. I don’t want to outsource that thinking to an A.I. that will generate a story. As you beautifully noted, we have control over our own responses, and mine is honor my own process of brainstorming, outlining, and reveling in the messy joy of first drafts.
I’m seeing the beginnings of a divide in the writing community over the use of A.I. between those who want to become A.I. prompters and those of us who still wish to write our own first drafts. I think your mindset of compassion, kindness and respect for individual creative process and recognizing that each of us remains in control of our own responses will help bridge that gap. Thank you so much for articulating that here.
You're welcome, Dale! And thank you for recognizing your process and respecting it. We're ahead of the music industry in this wave of change and behind the artists. I've been watching the huge divide among artists and the rage spent on each other. Then I see those who quietly evaluate each new change, test it, and then use what works with their process. There's power in that approach.
The writer who I know writes with pen has a programming background. He can absolutely handle the tech but recognizes that his process isn't being fed by it.
Some of these prompt writers won't last. Just like some of those who play at being writers don't last past the realities of a writer's life.
I do believe that some will thrive and find a way to make AI a part of their creative processes and still turn out good work. Whatever that will look like.
And I think every writer will land somewhere different. Respecting ourselves and our craft... We'll find a way forward.
"...writing is thinking. I don't want to outsource that thinking..."
That's such a critical thing to remember, especially with the errors that AI is prone to. One of the things I like to explore in writing is, "what is truth?" Because truth is not always consistent. The world needs our non-binary thinking!
Thank you, Lisa. JIT is what this post is. I'm feeling the pressure of this-needs-to-be-done in every aspect of my life (of which technology is no small part). I'd forgotten to stop trying to do-it-all and take it one step at a time. To allow myself to do things just-in-time is a wonderful gift.
Isn't JIT a blessing?
I'm leaning to look at my overwhelm one piece at a time and to ask: can an AI help? Will it take me more or less time to find out?
I delight each time an AI does help and I snag that time savings for writing.
Just this last weekend, I used it for two mundane writing tasks while spending my time on a project for my career path.
One day at a time! And just in time!
I welcome SOME of the stress. At my age (73), and involved in a trilogy I've been working on for over 22 years already where I have maybe 5 more years to do the third book, I am very happy that I just managed to insert a new MacBook Air into my system, figure out how to switch my big monitor and all the peripherals back and forth between the two computers (the old one has some priceless software on it I can't replace), and remember all my plotting software's tricks.
Because the brain must be in there, somewhere, if I can do this, right? In a still functional form? With the capacity to learn and change and write?
I can think of no better test.
Alicia, you're doing fantastic! Technology often makes me question: am I still able to do this? So far so good! And some things are getting easier.
You're recognizing the way that change can be good for us, and using it in productive ways. Excellent!
Excellent post! I have begun playing with ChatGPT to generate comp titles, tag lines, short synopses and the like. It's free, or at least, I have the free version, and it is so simple to use as I am not tech savvy. When I look at programs and software to try, I pick the free version. Very often, the free version is the basic, easier to use one. A few years ago when I was very brave, I jumped into Scrivener. I quickly got overwhelmed with the options, but I took a step back. I focused on just what I needed right then and learned that. I've been using Scrivener to write my first few drafts ever since. You're right when you say to learn what you need right at the moment. I breathed a huge sigh of relief when you said that it's okay to disconnect, not engage, find your peace. Thank you for this post.
Thanks, Barb. In this time, it is so important to be able to step back. It seems like everyone and everything is telling us we need to... We should... Taking a moment to breathe may be the most valuable skill and option we have. Then we have our creativity protected for those who need us!
Denise, you are the soul of brevity. I love it. And I think I'm going to paste "pace yourself" on my white board.