Be the Gatekeeper of Your Mind

Brain workingsEach day, we all receive countless bits of information, some useful, most not-so-much. Some of it comes in without our seeking it: billboards, radio commercials. Much of it enters our brains because we invite it: we listen to radio news, we watch television, we browse news websites, we read blogs.

I am a voracious reader of blogs and online articles. I am endlessly stimulated by all the ideas, all the conversations, and the free flow of information that may or may not have any effect on me personally.

But I’ve realized that maybe this constant consumption of bite-sized information and ideas actually impedes our own thoughtful creativity rather than stimulating it. It seems the more I read from diverse sources — no matter how much I love it — the less I am able to settle down and focus for extended periods of time on a single thought.

When I first began expanding my blog reading to include numerous, diverse sources on a wide variety of topics, I found it invigorating. I was excited by all I was learning, and it stimulated my creativity. But as I increased the number of different sources I was reading on a regular basis, it seemed to have the opposite effect. My creativity and original thinking dwindled. When I tried to focus, my mind hopped like a jackrabbit between all kinds of disparate thoughts.

Conversely, when I cut out much of the “noise” and spend more of my time in immersive reading (such as in a book), in which I am focusing in a single direction for extended periods of time, I find that my mind is clearer and my creativity sharper.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to guard my mind much more intentionally. It saddens me, but I’m cutting down the number of blogs and news sources I expose myself to each day. In addition, I’ve been spending more time driving, walking and hiking in silence rather than with audio input.

As stimulating as it is, I don’t think our brains are wired to function optimally with too many diverse sources of input each day. I believe we need to give our minds “down time” to process what we’ve already taken in; and we need to regularly train our brains to focus in a single direction in order to keep our creativity and deep-thinking capacities in full working order.

How’s your focus and creativity these days? Do you limit input to protect it? What are some ways you act as a gatekeeper for your mind?


Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Gardner Literary. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!


  1. 66 Days | Jeanne Guy Gatherings on May 19, 2013 at 9:08 PM

    […] To read her entire blog, click here. […]

  2. […] Be the Gatekeeper of Your Mind by Rachelle Gardner […]

  3. April on March 6, 2013 at 1:29 PM

    I ran into this. I stopped making email reading a daily activity. Ovary activities daily and strive to include writing with various goals intended as well various meditations with various goals intended throughout each day. I read a variety of genres, story formats and lengths, focusing primarily on award winning and best-selling authors.

  4. Shara Perry on February 27, 2013 at 6:50 AM

    Joshua 1:8 This book of the Law shall not depart out of your mouth, but u shall meditate on it day & night, that u may observe & do according to all that is written in it. For then you shall make your way prosperous, & then u shall deal wisely & have good success. There is nothing new under the sun ,all the distractions , they steal our time & fill our minds with an ocean of worries ,fears & anxieties. Why not focus on one thing , the Creator & His Word , the source of all creativity. I think our minds need down time & times of silence. How can we hear when we are always engaged in something constantly? There is even a struggle involved in escaping to quiet times & in my experience , those times are priceless. They recharge me.

  5. Sarah Potter on February 22, 2013 at 1:07 PM

    I’ve just stopped all email notifications of blog posts from the people I follow on WordPress, which has prevented me checking my android phone every 5 minutes for emails. Also, I’ve reduced down the number of people I follow to 50. I was finding the overloading of my inbox increasingly stressful. I also only post on my blog 2-3 times a week, small amounts at a time. Facebook and Twitter are for Saturdays.

    Now, I’m focused on writing my novel 🙂

  6. Nancy DeLaval Miller on February 14, 2013 at 6:43 PM

    Thank you Rachelle. I have been reading a lot of blogs on writing and other subjects on wordpress. I have noticed a lack of interest and concentration in my mind lately. I wondered what was wrong with my brain. Now I know!

  7. Elisabeth Allen on February 12, 2013 at 3:03 PM

    I needed to read this today – thank you for writing!

  8. Magpie Monday | Robert E. Stutts on February 11, 2013 at 4:28 AM

    […] Gardner on being the gatekeeper of your mind (I might have the problem she […]

  9. Chrissy on February 10, 2013 at 11:45 AM

    This blog totally blessed me. The idea you shared is always pinging around in my brain and spirit, but you nailed it by articulating it. Thank you!

  10. Diana Trautwein on February 9, 2013 at 8:50 PM

    Thank you for putting this so succinctly and well! Since retirement two years ago, I’ve poured myself into writing on my blog and submitting things elsewhere – short pieces for denominational magazines and for magazine/blogs. And I’ve loved doing it. But I’m feeling buried under the long list of blogs I now subscribe to and actually feel like my ability to read deeply is being undermined! So. I think it’s time to learn about Sabbathing from technology. And man, is it hard to do. I thank you for this encouragement and will work towards clearing the decks for greater creativity and clarity.

  11. Deborah Gambrel on February 9, 2013 at 6:17 PM

    I would have to say it is my constant battle. I am blessed with an overactive mind which allows me to create but if I don’t submit it to God and take care of input then I fail in many ways. My sleep suffers and so does my peace.

  12. Peter DeHaan on February 8, 2013 at 8:03 PM

    I’ve spend the week unsubscribing from blogs, the ones I feel guilty over not having the time to read. That will give me more time to focus on the ones I enjoy — even if I am a couple days late.

  13. 66 Days | on February 7, 2013 at 8:11 PM

  14. Jillian on February 7, 2013 at 5:05 PM

    Great post. I was actually just talking to my husband about this the other day. We are very careful of this with our daughter. She is so smart and we love to fuel her mind with new information but we also want to be careful that we do not over stimulate her with too much information.

    Sometimes simplicity and being selective about what we expose ourselves to is really the best approach.

  15. T.W. on February 7, 2013 at 4:46 PM

    Amen! What a great reminder to me! It’s so easy to get sucked into more, more, more!

    How did that quote go in Sabrina? Something along the lines of “More isn’t always better, Linus. Sometimes it’s just more.”

  16. Sidney Ross on February 7, 2013 at 2:11 PM

    oh podidae, oh paedomorphosis.

  17. Sidney Ross on February 7, 2013 at 1:57 PM

    edentate, by bad once again. jeeesh, I need to go back to bed

  18. Sidney Ross on February 7, 2013 at 1:55 PM

    endendate(toothless), my bad

  19. Sidney Ross on February 7, 2013 at 1:53 PM

    Are we turning into a bunch-a armadillos and enentate here? Oh dear? What’s next, disconnect the life-support?

  20. Sidney Ross on February 7, 2013 at 1:49 PM


    Sounds as if nearly everyone here on this blog is getting onto the ENDENTATE(lacking of teeth) bandwagon. Yesirree! We’ve got ourselves a bunch of armadillos, here. . … Rachelle, when you get to where your next move, your final announcement is “I’m pulling the plug and taking everyone here with me, please give me a heads ‘up. I’m moving to another ward. At the very least, a more user friendly room. —good points brian.

  21. Karen Campbell Prough on February 7, 2013 at 12:59 PM

    I soooo need to unplug. Thanks for the post! Even riding in the car without the radio is a blessing these days.

  22. Brian Henwood on February 7, 2013 at 10:43 AM

    When I first started writing, I thought reading other material would influence my work. I didn’t want to inadvertently “rob” from other authors or dilute my own “voice.” Yeah well, that was dumb.
    I don’t think you can “cut down” on your mental intake. Your brain is always going to process data. What you CAN do however, is feed it right. Instead of surfing blogs or web pages dedicated to stomping out intelligent discussions, I went back to reading my favorite authors. Right away I noticed an improvement in my writing; and the pages came easier.
    It also helped not thinking in acronyms or intentional misspells. LOL, ur prolly gonna ROFL, but when I think how frequently I purposely dummied down my writing, it was like OMG, no wonder I had trouble churning out good work. SMH.
    Recap: Don’t starve your brain, just try to eat healthy.

  23. Sidney Ross on February 7, 2013 at 3:18 AM

    thelastthingweneedbeisgatekeeperstoourmind. seewhathappenswhenwedothis? webecomecloseminded.

  24. Sidney Ross on February 7, 2013 at 2:52 AM

    Awe FIDDLE STIX Rachelle.
    That is not your mind that is giving you problems and telling you to be quite. It is your soul. Don’t wind-down. WIND-UP! Now listen, I know that you’ve heard it said, that your brain is only using a small percentage of it’s capacity and potential. Right? Now what? You’e going to defy all-science for gods sake and mail it in for the rest of your life? Hell no, of course you’re not. Find the real problem and sit on it, that’s right I said sit on it. So my dear Rachelle, what is the real problem? The real problem is: It’s your stool. No, no, no; not that stool silly. Your faldstool! Your fold-away throne. In many a corner of the world it is given aa a devotion stool. . … Rachel, you’ve gotten away from your DEVOTION. The where you were, the when you were, your most firmity, your ideas, your spirit, your whereabout. Get back to there Rachel. Surely do not fold-up and do the lesser. Now, go on, get out there and grab that FALDSTOOL and forevermore be the sovereign force we all know you can be. Resonate onward that litany, those invocations and supplications we all know you are capable of. And by golly, we the congregation will surely respond to thy prayers. … . ummm, can I get an amen sister?

  25. Lynda Schmeichel on February 6, 2013 at 11:44 PM

    I have recently found I need to cut down on the number of blogs I follow because I am getting too distracted with reading to create any of my own work lately. This is an ongoing process, every few months I have to “weed the garden.” This blog is not one to be weeded out though.

  26. Jenn Soehnlin on February 6, 2013 at 6:55 PM

    Loved this post!! I just finished a 3 week “social media fast”-no twitter, blogs or Facebook so that I could focus on my priorities. Never have I gotten so much done, or seen things so clearly as when I was focusing more on my children, myself, my writing, and reading good books. I’m now limiting the amount of time I spend online and it’s been awesome. 🙂

  27. Brandy Heineman on February 6, 2013 at 6:13 PM

    I try to monitor what I feed my mind, although “Ugh, delete!” has become a catchphrase in my house for all the stuff that slips by. And I’ve lamented advice-overload before. And I’ve complained about 24-hour news frying my capacity for compassion. Hmmm. Might be a good time for a media fast.

  28. Paula Moldenhauer on February 6, 2013 at 6:12 PM

    Oh, yeah. I’m easily overwhelmed by too much on-line reading and find if I do too much reading/networking/blogging that is all she wrote for my creative output.

    I had two car accidents last year, and they injuries forced me to spend very little computer time. I’ve fallen in love with wandering for a few miles a day. It clears my head, lifts my mood, and helps my body grow stronger and thinner.

    While I was injured I spent a lot of time in bed listening to Tolkien on audio books. It was a wonderful, expansive experience that I don’t get on-line.

  29. Paula Moldenhauer on February 6, 2013 at 6:11 PM

    I totally relate to this. I’m easily overwhelmed by too much on-line reading and find if I do too much reading/networking/blogging that is all she wrote for my creative output.

    I had two car accidents last year, and they injuries forced me to spend very little computer time. I’ve fallen in love with wandering for a few miles a day. It clears my head, lifts my mood, and helps my body grow stronger and thinner.

    While I was injured I spent a lot of time in bed listening to Tolkien on audio books. It was a wonderful, expansive experience that I don’t get on-line.

  30. Erich Kreppenhofer on February 6, 2013 at 5:51 PM

    I truly believe we have to compartmentalize our mind to whatever we are doing. Some call it focus some call it doggedly advancing. General De Gaulle told his ministers at a meeting, “have no others opinion influence you, forget the political strategies do what I want” Whether you are a writer or just street vendor you have a job to do.Some of you are not impeded by outside input some may be, but the reality of the fact remains, we are all impacted by it. We have to remind ourself, blogs, articles, books are only other writers opinion, it does stand to reason your opinion will most likely survive. Creativity does come from within its may well be a gene passed on by ancestors or just a learned kow how by decree. The only thing you must always allow to influence you is research into the subject of your story.

  31. Jenni Wiltz on February 6, 2013 at 5:26 PM

    For me, it depends on the kind of material I’m letting into my mind. Adding more writing/publishing/editing/agent blogs to my reading list makes me inspired because I’m even more immersed in the world I want to be in. Adding more gossip, entertainment, or ancillary blogs and sites produces the exact effect you described. I can absorb a ridiculous amount of information, but only in one dedicated subject area.

  32. Elissa on February 6, 2013 at 3:54 PM

    We don’t have TV reception. Most days, I deliberately avoid looking at news online. I don’t have any sort of cell phone (no reception where I live). No iPod. I read only a few blogs.

    And at times I still feel inundated with tmi.

    This is one reason why I have avoided social media so far. I know it’s necessary for connecting with readers and building platform (even for a fiction writer like myself). But I look at things like Twitter and Facebook and wonder if they would not only eat up my time, but take some of my focus as well. I hope to find some sort of happy medium, but I am as yet still reluctant to add one more distraction to my very distracted life.

  33. Jessica Thomas on February 6, 2013 at 3:51 PM

    I’ve experienced this exact same thing. What was once invigorating becomes a constant draw of energy that can lead me to exhaustion. I’m glad you wrote this, so I know it’s not just me. I’ve also had the “sadness” you’ve experienced when the realization came to me that my brain just can’t handle it all. I wish it could, I truly do, but the poor thing needs a break.

  34. claudine on February 6, 2013 at 3:18 PM

    Perfect. I guess you could say I did my own version of this when I got off facebook a few months back. One huge benefit: more sleep. You’re inspiring me to do some more ‘quieting’ things though. Thanks.

  35. Lynne Hartke on February 6, 2013 at 2:33 PM

    I have realized I need space and silence in order to be creative. I work hard to eliminate unnecessary choices (I shop at the same two grocery stores every week), to free my mind to have room for choices and creativity that matter. I often turn off the radio in the car and hike without any additional noise.

  36. Angela Mills on February 6, 2013 at 2:31 PM

    You are so right! I also find that I stress snd worry way more when I’m overexposing myself to all the info out there!

  37. LeslieG on February 6, 2013 at 2:29 PM

    Thank you for such a refreshing post! Here’s another thought-provoking–if not alarming–article to back you up:

  38. R.A.Savary on February 6, 2013 at 2:27 PM

    I love it simply because I am already there and am ready to start hearing these thoughts from others.

    We all know the importance of commitment. What is commitment other than a firm resolution to “regularly train our brains to focus in a single direction?”

  39. Dean Merrill on February 6, 2013 at 2:13 PM

    It was said of the scholar Erasmus (1466-1536)that he had read everything in the world that was available to read. Obviously he would not be able to keep up today–and neither can we. Actually, that’s okay.

  40. Roxanne Sherwood Gray on February 6, 2013 at 1:53 PM


    I read one of Robert Frost’s poems he wrote as a high school student. (Alas, I will probably never write that well.) But Frost spent a lot of time with nature. Certainly, a lot of time in solitude, thinking his own thoughts. I don’t know where young poets will come from. Our youth constantly walk around with ear buds.

    Today, we can’t get away from noise. While shopping, we’re blasted with music. Even pumping gasoline, we’re bombarded with advertisements. Do you remember how people used to complain about Muzak? At least, it stayed in the background. I hate going somewhere and have to compete with the music to carry on a conversation.

  41. […] (or Woman) in the Mirror on Writer Unboxed and freelance editor Jodie Renner’s (@JodieRennerEd) Essential Characteristics of a Thriller Hero on The Kill Zone. You can tell from the title that Renner’s piece is more focused on certain […]

  42. Dee Bright on February 6, 2013 at 12:52 PM

    I agree, Rachelle. Downtime is essential, and not just for our writing.

    Yes, it’s good to have so much information available to us, but too much of a good thing isn’t always good. The world thrives on overload. Enough is never enough. Busy is never busy enough. Our culture seems to thrive on cramming every moment with more.

    Unfortunately, that drives out any space for simply being in the moment. And, bombarding our minds with ceaseless noise causes us to miss the most important Voice speaking.

    Awhile back I came across an interesting acronym for the word “busy”…


    That hit me right between the eyes. I was the Queen of Busy and proud of it.

    Now I try to carve out space in my day for nothingness–and it goes on my to-do list! On the days I honor that “commitment to quiet,” I have more energy and more focus. I actually enjoy my life.

    Best of all, I don’t feel frayed at the end of the day!

  43. Sharon A Lavy on February 6, 2013 at 12:43 PM

    Another thing that has stifled my creativity is when I put aside my TBR novel pile, thinking I had no time. That is when the waking up in the night ah-ha moments began to slow down also.

    Time to turn over a new leaf. And it will let me get back to writing book reviews, which I actually like to do.

  44. Jamie Beck on February 6, 2013 at 12:40 PM

    I think a lot of the social media is very distracting and, frankly, unnecessary. It takes time away from focusing on other things (whether they be creative endeavors, or simply normal ‘real’ life pleasures) without giving a lot of ‘payout’ for the trade-off.

    As an aspiring author, I’ve been trying to learn Twitter/FB and preparing to start a blog, etc. When I’m lurking on these things now, I’m wondering why there is so much chatter that doesn’t seem to ‘mean’ anything.

    I love following agents/editors/book bloggers, etc., who lead me to great books or writing articles/webinar opportunities. But I also see a LOT of wasted time (posts about morning coffee runs, etc.).

    As a reader (taking off my writing hat), I may love certain authors and am pleased to learn when their next books will be released, but I’m not all that interested in knowing the day to day thoughts/personal details of their lives.

    I guess, as someone else already mentioned, the key is balance. Social media is here to stay and we must be part of it to stay relevant, but recognizing its true value (or lack thereof) is important when making decisions about where to invest one’s time.

  45. Carol O'Casey on February 6, 2013 at 12:33 PM

    I couldn’t agree more. Your post brought to mind Richard Louv’s quote in The Nature Principle: “The more high tech we become, the more we need nature.”

  46. dale carroll-coleman on February 6, 2013 at 12:24 PM

    Ah, you are preaching to the choir. I agree and have felt those same emotions.
    My approach is simple, sort of. I pray.
    My goal for this year is to be devoted to prayer.
    If we do not have a quiet center in our lives, we frequently go off the deep end when life go off kilter.
    I have a faith in God so this is where my prayers are directed. He keeps me in check, unless I ignore His advice and go my own way. He gives me that choice.
    I have a choice what I will fill my little pea brain with and I try and go for the steak. Real food, real truth.

  47. katdish on February 6, 2013 at 12:18 PM

    I prioritize my reading. There’s great information on the Internet, but even great information is harmful if it only serves as a distraction from what we should be doing.

  48. Katie @ cakes, tea and dreams on February 6, 2013 at 12:08 PM

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. I don’t have any good answers, but I do find myself becoming distracted by too much input. Great post.

  49. R'becca Groff on February 6, 2013 at 12:08 PM

    You nailed this one to the wall with 12 inch solid gold spikes. And I thank you for it. All of our electronic toys, widgets, gadgets, apps, softwares, blogs, Facebook families, etc, etc. are marvelous inventions, but they want to own us–and unfortunately, we’ve let them. I made the same choice as you in these past few months, and glad for it.

  50. Susi Robinson Rutz on February 6, 2013 at 11:32 AM

    Rachelle, your post reminds me of something I recently shared with my girlfriends. Some years ago, I listened to a Focus on the Family program of an author drawing out a very good illustration (I think from her book). She said that when we’re making chocolate chip cookies, if we add a few more chips, the cookies are richer and better. At some point, if we continue to add chocolate chips, the cookies become crumbly. They fall apart for their richness. They’re no longer good cookies.

    • Dee Bright on February 6, 2013 at 12:24 PM

      Love the analogy, Susi!

  51. Destiny Allison on February 6, 2013 at 11:31 AM

    Rachelle, This was a lovely post and a good reminder to all of us. I think it is interesting that in large computer systems, the designers actually incorporate white noise so that when the system is not working, they can identify the stuff that they need because it rises out of the noise. Recognizing that we are similar is imperative. Our quality and truth can only rise out of the noise. It can never get lost in it.

  52. Jennifer Fonseca on February 6, 2013 at 11:30 AM

    Recently, as part of an alternative therapy treatment to clear up health issues, I needed to completely unplug: no electronics whatsoever for 72 hours. No TV and no Internet researching were difficult, but the inability to connect via text messaging really got me. I may be an introvert, but I’m an extroverted texter. My electronic sabbatical allowed me to personally connect with friends on a more intimate level. I also organized my pantry, went to the beach and picked up a hardback. I felt less scattered and more accomplished; less overwhelmed and a greater sense of serenity. It seems more than just my pantry got organized.

  53. Meghan Carver on February 6, 2013 at 11:24 AM

    I’ve been thinking about this for a while, Rachelle. I’ve been enjoying writing for my blog and building that readership while still working on my WIP. But in my “down time” like emptying the dishwasher or driving, I find my mind distracted to brainstorming for the blog rather than creating scenes for my WIP. I definitely need to work on that since my ultimate goal is the WIP, not the blog. I’m trying to limit my blogging time to specific hours and forget it all the rest of the day.

  54. Cynthia Herron on February 6, 2013 at 11:22 AM

    Totally agree, Rachelle.

    As writers, I think we have to stay abreast of world events and daily happenings–to a degree. However, I feel things so deeply and internalize so much that I really do have to just shut down for awhile.

    Guarding our minds is really the healthy (and God-commanded) thing to do.

  55. Heather Kopp at on February 6, 2013 at 11:12 AM

    This is such a wonderful, helpful post, Rachelle. It’s so easy to get overwhelmed. Then I think back to a time when I didn’t read any blogs at all, when I mostly thought and prayed and wrote… it was more creatively conducive to a point–as you said–so finding the balance is the challenge. It’s always that way, isn’t it? Balance, balance, balance. And each good reminder, like your blog today, helps me stay there on the beam. Thanks for this.

  56. Gerri Wetta Hilger on February 6, 2013 at 11:09 AM

    What a wise reflection! I have felt guilty at times because I read few blogs, and yours is my only regular. However, I am a slow reader, and realized early that the more ideas I was reading from other, the less time I was thinking originally and creatively. For that reason, my blog has been on hiatus as I finished my novel.
    As a teacher, I challenged my students to learn to have some quiet time, to turn off the car radio, and unplug their ear phones. Most thought I was just old and “out of it.”

  57. Royale Scuderi on February 6, 2013 at 11:09 AM

    I couldn’t agree more. The problem is that though I know I feel calmer, more creative, defnitely more focused when I disconnect, I don’t feel as though I can.
    I have to keep up with my social media platform and need stay current and take in information and ideas for my blog and writing, but I haven’t figured out how to balance that need with the need, longing even for less noise and information clutter in my brain…

    • Elissa on February 6, 2013 at 4:16 PM

      You’ve made a good point, Royale. We’ve convinced ourselves that these things are vital, and so we can’t let go.

      There used to be (perhaps still are) a number of religious orders where speech was limited to certain times or tasks, or prohibited altogether. Adherents believed the way to God, or Enlightenment, or whatever they sought, could not be found if there were too many distractions. I wonder if they were on to something?

      Can we really not function without being “connected”? Do we really “need” to blog, tweet, check email, surf, tweet, comment, rinse and repeat?

      The only way to know is to unplug. 24 hours? 72? A week? Would the world really stop spinning? Would we fall off? Or would we, perhaps, find peace in ourselves and the world?

  58. Heather Kelly on February 6, 2013 at 11:09 AM

    I totally agree with this post. I add email into the mix–I can handle my writing/work email, maybe because it is all around a central idea, but the email in my personal inbox just seems invasive to me. I combat this by deleting as many messages as possible and by keeping the inbox to fewer than 50. (Funny that 50 is a low number to me in this case.)

    Sometimes I need to be extroverted and be a part of the blogging community–sometimes I need to unplug and stay introverted. 🙂

    Thanks for the thoughtful post!

  59. Dale S. Rogers on February 6, 2013 at 11:08 AM

    I’ve noticed the same thing about myself, Rachelle. After I got into hopping about on the Internet, I had more trouble focusing on one project, and I didn’t feel the pull toward writing I used to have. I need to discipline myself more–gleaning what I can from these sources, yet taking the time to concentrate on my own work.

  60. Jenny on February 6, 2013 at 11:06 AM

    Turning off the radio in the car is probably the most effective for me. That quietness is so relaxing. It’s amazing how many times I have to stop myself from reaching for the radio dial to turn it on! It’s such a mindless habit.

    Second would be to cut off all internet “exploring”. I get obsessed, sometimes, searching and reading, body parts lose circulation!

    I know I need to reduce noise and mind clutter when my ears are ringing after I go to bed at night. I hate that.

  61. Terri Thompson on February 6, 2013 at 10:58 AM

    This is exactly what I need today…this year, in fact. I know it’s true. I’ve even blogged about it, but I still need reminders.

  62. Heather on February 6, 2013 at 10:50 AM

    Rachelle I totally know how you feel! Especially when you can always go deeper into a project. I think you are doing the right thing. I haven’t looked at it before as guarding my mind, but I’ve been taking steps to do that, to bring balance to my life by giving myself time for my brain to not actively engage in anything, like with exercise.

  63. Mieke Zamora-Mackay on February 6, 2013 at 10:46 AM

    This is a great, thought-provoking post. I’ve become more conscious of the time and energy I spend perusing byte-sized information. I realize now that as we become more accustomed to shorter length or condensed information, we tend to try take in more. Possible more than we are meant to actually process at one particular stretch of time. This eats up all the space in our brains for other creative work.

    I’ve recently begun purging the list of blogs I read, and people I follow on Twitter. My brain feels calmer, and I can sit longer without wanting to reach for an internet connected device, and just watch the physical world around me. I find myself more receptive to creative thought once more.

  64. Jennifer Uhlarik on February 6, 2013 at 10:26 AM

    Hi Rachelle,

    I inadvertently stumbled on this truth when I began to cut back on various websites I frequented and things I read regularly. While doing all those things, I found I could not focus on my writing for any length of time. After cutting back on them or cutting them out all together, my focus and creativity has returned in force. Daniel 12:4 actually says that, “many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase” in the time of the end. There is so much information that comes across our paths each day, we must become the gatekeeper of our minds. Thanks for the reminder!

  65. Gary on February 6, 2013 at 10:21 AM

    I add music to the list of things that dampen my creativity. However it may jump start my thinking in a specific direction, as will a blog, article or a picture. Then to focus and have any meaningful depth I need a semblance of solitude with the phone off.
    Great blog!

  66. Sharon A Lavy on February 6, 2013 at 10:14 AM

    Sometimes less really is more.

    • Jillian Kent on February 6, 2013 at 10:58 AM

      I completely agree and after a month of marketing my new book I’ve found it more difficult to return to my writing in a focused kind of way.

      That is going to change today. Rachelle’s post was perfect timing for me as I think I’ve been doing the same thing since I finished my series. On to a new proposal. 🙂


  67. Marla Taviano on February 6, 2013 at 10:14 AM

    Not going to read any of the comments. Don’t want them to mess up what’s going to come out of my own head. 🙂 YES. I did this a few months ago. Cut way, way down. WAY down. Asking God’s Spirit to lead me. Too many other voices drown him out. (There’s still some really important stuff out there for me to learn; just being more selective.)

  68. Julie Luek on February 6, 2013 at 10:09 AM

    Even though there are a ton of comments already, this is a subject I’ve been thinking about as well and am going to have to chime in with the Amen Choir.

    The other danger of too much online info-blasting is trying to cater to each new idea or suggestion about writing, marketing, blogging, etc, touted by some expert. At some point, you have to look in your own heart, write as you’re lead, listen to your gut-instinct and quit playing follow-the-gurus. After all, they got where they are by listening to their dream and vision.

  69. Andi-Roo (@theworld4realz) on February 6, 2013 at 10:07 AM

    As with everything else, moderation is key. Too much information can be as dangerous as cutting out information altogether. We must remain informed, but we should choose our sources more wisely. Great thought here! 🙂

  70. Kelly on February 6, 2013 at 10:06 AM

    Great post. Glad I found it. Lately I have been reading a lot of blogs and articles filled with different information. I have been taking it all in ravenously even making notes for future projects. My creativity is in a great place however, my focus is all over the place. I find at the end of the day I’m exhausted but my thoughts are racing. This leaves me too tired to sleep. I find hard workouts like running an cycling break up the over flow of information and help to create balance during the day.

  71. Joy Dent on February 6, 2013 at 10:05 AM

    Rachelle, I can really identify with this. I’m inundated with blogs, yahoo loops, Facebook, twitter, Google plus, until my thoughts are fragmented and my creativity is stifled!
    I live on a beautiful farm in Tennessee. You can bet that today I’ll be taking that long walk to allow my mind to relax and my thoughts to breath!
    Our brains were not meant to be bombarded day in and day out. Thank you for the reminder!

  72. Jeanne T on February 6, 2013 at 10:04 AM

    Yes, I definitely needed to read this. I’ll be considering how much I need to cut out to “up” my creativity. I struggle with distractions as it is, and I hadn’t put the thought of too much online activity together with less creativity. I need to be more proactive about guarding my mind. You bring up good thoughts, Rachelle.

  73. Mercey Valley on February 6, 2013 at 9:54 AM

    A most worthy post!! I made this cut back about three years ago and my bain has thanked me for it. Conversely, when you do reintroduce some of that life ‘noise’ you’ll hear it differently and it will be a more decisive action instead of being something you do purely out of habit.

    Life is not about how much we can cram in and all we think we can glean and learn, but about the richness of those gleanings and the times we allow to fill our days. As the old song goes, “Silence is golden, golden…” 😉

    Rock on peace.

    • Mercey Valley on February 6, 2013 at 9:55 AM

      Er… that should of course be BRAIN. We can live without noise but we can’t live without sleep. Night. 😉

  74. Janell Rardon on February 6, 2013 at 9:50 AM

    Great word, Rachelle!
    In 1998 I suffered a life-changing stress fracture in my L-5/S-1. As a professional dancer and dance studio owner, that wasn’t good news. In light of this, I felt God leading me to close that door on 38 years of dance. No longer would I be, “Janell, the dancer.” I didn’t know who I was outside of that definition. I’ve never experienced such deep pain. I know now it was grief. That Janell died. In the midst of the trial, I found myself out of words. I tried to pray, but silence was the only thing that came out of my mouth. I felt led to my big master bedroom closet, where I shut the door, fell on my knees, and cried. I didn’t say a word in that closet for a very long time. God led me to listen to the silence. Listen for HIS voice, not my words. Revelation 8:1 became very very real. “And there was thirty minutes of silence…” Since that period, I’ve tried to continue that practice…30 minutes of silence…..every day. I talk alot, so, this helps me shut up and listen for God. Great post, Rachelle. Boy, we all need to shut up, don’t we? At least for 30 minutes a day! 🙂 Blessings!

  75. Stephen H. King on February 6, 2013 at 9:32 AM

    I don’t think the diversity is a problem with me. When I earned my PhD we were constantly up in the top two levels of Bloom’s taxonomy: synthesis (coalescing lots of diverse information into a single concept) and evaluation. It’s also something I do every day on my job as Dean–when, that is, I’m not filing papers into binders. I think it helps me in my writing; sometimes I get a great idea for the next chapter from, say, a knitting blog post I just read. It just clicks in with everything else. But you’re right; not everybody has developed that level of cognition.

    That said, there’s a difference between diversity and volume. I do purposely cut down on the volume I take in. I’m in a blogging challenge–one blog every day for 365 days–and there’s no way I can take in every other participant’s post every day. So I don’t, and I don’t apologize for it. I read the blogs I consider important–yours being one. I agree with some of what those blogs say, and I disagree with other parts, but it’s always being added to the whole. By restricting incoming volume, though, I’m able to leave some neurons free for the creative efforts.

    – TOSK

  76. Jen Zeman on February 6, 2013 at 9:29 AM

    I am SO with you Rachelle! I’ve made a conscious effort to reduce my time on social media and it helps tremendously. I just launched my website and also decided I’m not going to kill myself reading and responding on a tons of blogs just to drive traffic. Way too stressful. So, call me crazy or not, I’m just going to let the site grow organically and see where it takes me. I love my creative mind and want to nourish as much as possible.

  77. Heather Wright on February 6, 2013 at 9:28 AM

    I’m taking ‘gatekeeping’ to heart these days. I can accomplish much more when I limit my time on the Web and limit what I do when I get there. Here’s a link to a great blog by Sarah Selecky on the importance of “white space” in your creative/working life. A great companion piece to your blog topic.

  78. Christina Katz on February 6, 2013 at 9:17 AM

    Hi Rachelle, I think this is a great topic. In the digital age we forget the premise, garbage in, garbage out. This is definitely my year to use online tools to focus my attention and not dissipate it. Which you can always find me doing on Facebook for a quick break. But when I’m on FB, I’m connecting with people, not just information. And we have definitely entered the information dump age. Thanks for your honesty.

  79. Teri Brown on February 6, 2013 at 9:11 AM

    Because I have an impending deadline, I haven’t had as much time for reading blogs or info posts, but because I am in the middle of a book launch, I am scattered and a bit frenzied. I’ve been using morning pages as a way to center and focus. I couldn’t see the point at first, but I honestly think they are helping now. I think it’s mostly about seeking balance between all the hats we wear.

  80. Michelle DeRusha on February 6, 2013 at 9:04 AM

    I started running without music a few months ago, and I’ve been amazed at the story ideas I get when I’m huffing along in silence.

  81. kathryn Magendie on February 6, 2013 at 9:01 AM

    I’ve done this, as well. One of the gifts I gave myself is each morning instead of rushing to my computer as I drink my coffee, I instead go to the living room, where I have a nice comfy rocker that has a view of the smokies, and I sit with my coffee, pet my dog as I sip and think and dream and wonder and wander–this has also helped me figure out things with my draft, or I’ll think of nothing at all, really, just meander. I have two cups, and I enjoy every moment of this time.

  82. Cindy Huff on February 6, 2013 at 8:46 AM

    Great post! I can relate to the feeling of information overload and the brains inability to have an original thought. I too have unsubscribed to a few blogs and am purposing to unfollow conversations. I delete more unread email than I read from those sites otherwise I would be in my email reading people comments for hours.
    You blog is a keeper full of helpful info and encouragement.

  83. Sue Harrison on February 6, 2013 at 8:39 AM

    In his book THE NEW DIGITAL SHORELINE, author Dr. Roger McHaney explains that the rapid-fire input from multiple media sources actually rewires and changes the physical landscape of our brains. (Okay, I have to admit that Roger is my brother…) Roger seems pretty excited about that possibility, but as a writer, I know that I need to have long periods of quiet, non-stress writing time. I write in a no-noise environment if possible. Even when I read, I prefer no-noise!

  84. James Pray on February 6, 2013 at 8:37 AM

    Easy! I don’t watch TV and I don’t own a smartphone =)

  85. Lisa Airey on February 6, 2013 at 8:31 AM

    I always find your blog posts reflective and meditative. I find them helpful on many levels and I read them at the start of my day.

    To keep my writing fresh, I step away from the computer. I garden, cook, play with my animals, visit with friends, play cards with a pod of novagenarians… somehow slowing down always seems to speed up the next chapter of the book when its time to “put pen to paper”.

    Less is truly more.

  86. Samantha on February 6, 2013 at 7:01 AM

    I have also found myself deleting some of the blog subscriptions that I had eagerly signed up for, and I always sit in complete silence when I write. Ideas seem to start flooding my mind when I am driving with no music or audiobook on. If only I could always harness those thoughts when I get back to the keyboard, but they seem to flit away.

  87. Robert Ritchie on February 6, 2013 at 6:25 AM

    At least for a short while, the snow cover in New Hampshire is absent. This, combined with a January physical in which I learned my cholesterol was up, has produced a recipe for increased walking. I own an iPhone, but chose only to use its timer. It measures my walks along the asphalt paths of a nearby and ancient cemetery. Stone markers for people who died in the early 1800’s are on both sides of me, many of which read, “gone but not forgotten.” One of them has fallen from its base. I walk faster, more learned, paying attention to my breathing as my mind ignores all things Apple and instead take in life from deaths and breaths.

  88. Darcy Crowder on February 6, 2013 at 5:13 AM

    I couldn’t agree more. I try to limit my “browsing” time to an hour or less a day for just these reasons. And when it comes to writing time, I need quiet so I can concentrate fully. Getting outside for quality time every day is also a great way to inspire!

  89. Ellen Gregory on February 6, 2013 at 3:54 AM

    I find I yearn to switch off completely, but can’t – because I might miss something! So instead I try to allocate different days for seeking input (such as other people’s blogs) and other days for being creative. It doesn’t always work, and there’s not always a clear delineation, but it helps me say ‘no’ to most of the distractions when I’m supposed to be writing.

    And I’m a great fan of silent periods too. I used to always listen to headphones (most often audiobooks) when walking, but these days my head is so full that I find walking in silence is bliss. But I still love having audiobooks in the car to divert me from the dreary peak hour traffic.

  90. Charlotte M. Liebel / @Sharliebel on February 6, 2013 at 3:35 AM

    Very distracted. Have to cut back… and how timely that I chose your post tonight after such a tedious day.

    Thank you, Rachelle.

    Charlotte M Liebel / @Sharliebel

  91. adriana on February 6, 2013 at 2:59 AM

    spot on! I’m deleting more than I’m reading. A. no time. B. too distracting.

    …and your post of course, was worth reading! Ha, Ha!!

  92. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser on February 6, 2013 at 2:56 AM

    Realizing that my mind was no longer my own, I disconnected. Or unplugged. Whatever.

    No TV or radio news, no CNN online, no iPod. No PBS, no American Idol. No Internet surfing.

    Only Christian and Punjabi religious music, research directly relevant to writing, and blogs that are professionally or personally interesting and relevant.

    And a good dollop of manual labor, every day.

    The problem, for me, was not too much information – it was how I reacted to it, and how I used it. I found that my emotions were being wrapped around much of what I read and heard, which colored life like dye in water. Worse, my writing was becoming mannered, conformed to the current style of WikiTyranny.

    Has it helped? To some degree, yes – my writing no longer filters and adapts “current events” to the same degree, neither in content nor in communication style.

    But the habit of using a baleen brain to dine on a whale’s breakfast of information dies hard, and vigilance has been the price of excess.

  93. terri patrick on February 6, 2013 at 2:41 AM

    Great post. I’ve learned to do this as well, and enjoy the beauty and peace of being unplugged and under-stimulated.

    Since I’ve focused on a better balance between online and unplugged for two years now, I will offer that the benefits increase and you may even, like me, become more focused and organized about where you put your attention. This means wading through the noise can become more productive and efficient as there is a priority on a clearer mind and sharper creativity.

  94. Gemma Hawdon on February 6, 2013 at 2:26 AM

    I recently started a blog and have found myself hopping around the internet, skimming through other blogs and commenting when inspired to. As a result, I’m finding it hard to focus on writing projects for long periods of time. I can’t switch off easily, my thoughts unsettled and flitting from one thing to another. The only way I can settle them is to take my laptop away from internet access to this cafe in the grounds of a nursery. Surrounded by nature, something changes in my mind, I relax and I can focus once again. Thanks for your thought-provoking article.

  95. S. Kim Henson on February 6, 2013 at 2:25 AM

    Oh no. When I read this, it resonated, so I bet I need to do the same. Sometimes I’m exhausted by the end of the day from all I’ve read online. Plus, I’ve always had a little trouble focusing … I don’t need any outside help.

    It never crossed my mind that maybe too much variety was also too much stimulation, but I think it is.

    Thanks for a late night insight to top off my reading frenzy for the evening. Maybe I’ll delete the rest.

  96. Jo Murphey on February 6, 2013 at 1:46 AM

    My creativity level ebbs and flows depending on the day and hour. While I firmly believe that death is the absence of learning your can also overload your brain. I put a time limit on reading outside source, just like I put a limit on writing. I tend to be both a voracious reader and writer so I remind myself to break free.

  97. Julie Sunne on February 6, 2013 at 12:41 AM

    I really try to guard my mind, but this information-saturated world batters down my defenses. The best way I’ve found to get “down” time is get completely away from techy stuff–taking a walk without music or podcasts. Rejuvenating!

  98. Michael Seese on February 6, 2013 at 12:27 AM

    Unfortunately, there always seem to be barbarians at the gate of my mind.

    • sherrie miranda on February 6, 2013 at 7:38 PM

      I am in the same boat as you. I am actually considering getting rid of the e-mail address I have had for 15 plus years. I no longer use the name and most of the political stuff comes to that e-mail address. A lot of writing blogs come to me there too, but I can always start over with those, choosing much more carefully this time.
      I am not going to save the world arguing with the other side that thinks everything I say is a lie so why bother?
      I have found some very good, thoughtful discussion on LinkedIn so I will keep that coming. I plan to keep both my Facebook profiles, and Twitter is not that intrusive (tho I am unsure of it’s value too).
      Some of these sites have shut down their discussion pages. Writer’s Digest is one.
      In all honesty, I believe I have an internet addiction. So, doing this will be the beginning of a 12 step program to get me away from the net and back to my writing. It has been a great learning experience in many ways (I do believe my writing has improved, as well as my knowledge). But IT IS TIME TO LET SOME OF THESE OLD FRIENDS GO. THEY NO LONGER SERVE ME. I have been a servant to them.
      Please wish me luck as I start this new endeavor. Rachelle’s blog will be one of the few I keep.
      Thanks, Rachelle for giving me the added incentive to do this. It’s been a long time coming.