Disconnecting From The World
So You Can Create Your Own

By PJ Parrish

I’ve been having a bad time of late trying to get in a writing mood. It was really getting me down and I couldn’t, for the life of me, figure out why. I’m up in my Michigan home now, far from the heat waves. It’s 70 degrees and the only thing I can hear is birdsong and the sweet wheeze of my dog Archie snoring at my side.

So what is wrong? I should be rolling on the WIP. But no. I am trolling Marketplace looking for a bookcase. I am researching air fares to Italy. I am doing Wordle and old crosswords. I’m hanging out on Spelling Bee, hellbent to get to Queen Bee status. And spending way too much time on Facebook salvating over people’s dinners, watching three German Shepherds tasting hooman food, and being jealous of other writers’ success.

There I said it. Yeah, I’m hooman.

The other day, I saw a Facebook post from my friend Joseph Finder. I like Joe a lot. We’ve been on panels together. He writes good books that sell really well. He’s a really nice guy. But this photo at left that he posted the other day made me want to…heck, I don’t know what. This is Joe’s writing office. It’s perfect. How would someone NOT get inspired sitting in a place like that?  Why can’t I have a writing house like that? Maybe I’ll go up to Cape Cod and TP his…

But then I realized that even if I had a cool writer’s shed like his, it wouldn’t make any differennce. Because my problem is not where I AM when I try to write. It is where MY HEAD IS when I try to write.

And that led me to realize something important: The world is too much with me. (Apologies to William Wordsworth). I need to find what Joe has — but within myself. I need to re-find quietude and solitude. I need my hurly-burly brain to calm down before something creative can start growing there again.

There’s a lot of talk these days about how many of us are trying to find a way to wean ourselves off our phones and social media. Here in my small northern Michigan town, the school board bucked high schoolers and some parents and banned phones from the classrooms. (Guess who didn’t object? Teachers, grade-school kids and middle-schoolers). We know we have to turn off the TV, ignore the cable Babel, stay away from Facebook, Instagram and whatever Musk is calling his enterprise these days.

Sometimes things come your way in weird ways just when you need them. When I was rummaging around Facebook the other day, wasting precious time, I ran across an old article called The Bliss Station.  In it, writer Auston Kelon advocates for making “a daily appointment to disconnect from the world so that we can connect with ourselves.”

He quotes Josoeph Campbell in The Power of Myth:

You must have a room, or a certain hour or so a day, where you don’t know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don’t know who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe anybody, you don’t know what anybody owes to you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. This is the place of creative incubation. At first you may find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen.

I really love this idea. Sure, a fine Finder office is nice. Yeah, a she-shed with a mini-fridge stocked with fume blanc would be nice. But as Kleon points out, this isn’t about having the right PHYSICAL space. It’s about creating the right MENTAL space. From his article:

The deluxe package would be having both a special room and a special hour that you go to it, but we started wondering whether one would make up for not having the other.

For example, say you have a tiny apartment that you share with small children. There’s no room for your bliss station, there’s only time: When the kids are asleep or at school or day care, even a kitchen table can be turned into a bliss station.

Or, say your schedule is totally unpredictable, and a certain time of day can’t be relied upon — that’s when a dedicated space that’s ready for you at any time will come in handy.

Kleon himself admits that his “time vampire” is turning on his phone first thing every morning. “The easiest way I get my feelings hurt is by turning on my phone first thing in the morning. And even on the rare occasion I don’t get my feelings hurt, my time is gone and my brains are scrambled.”

Again, to repeat: What’s needed is that we make a daily appointment to disconnect from the world so that we can connect with ourselves.

Back to “The World Is Too Much With Us.” Wordsworth’s words are worth heeding. He wrote the poem during the First Industrial Revolution, when technological innovation was transforming 18th century life. He was saddened by the mad rush from one new thing to the next, and said we had lost our ability to find tranquility in nature.

So, no advice tacked on here today. I haven’t got any. And I don’t think any of you need it. In your hearts, you know what you need to do to find your own Bliss Station. It’s a stunning morning up here in Michigan. I am going to go talk a long walk in the woods (no ear-bud music, please) then come back and try again.


This entry was posted in Writing by PJ Parrish. Bookmark the permalink.

About PJ Parrish

PJ Parrish is the New York Times and USAToday bestseller author of the Louis Kincaid thrillers. Her books have won the Shamus, Anthony, International Thriller Award and been nominated for the Edgar. Visit her at PJParrish.com

34 thoughts on “Disconnecting From The World
So You Can Create Your Own

  1. Late and soon, I suffer the same angst recently. It seemed as if I were writing the wrong thing. I stopped work on my Guardienne monographs and took up a sonnet for Act II of “Shake, Willy,” my Shakespearean play. I banged out the poem in a couple of weeks and then finalized the play. (A link to the poem is below.)

    But further progress on the latest monograph remains at a crawl. I sought a co-author with a PhD in Psychology, without success. I’m thinking of starting another sonnet, but will feel guilty for abandoning the Guardienne Hypothesis even for a few more weeks. The concept may eventually, years hence, lead to improved clinical methods for treating alcoholism.

    Yes, I know that creating the perfect writing space would not guarantee more production, tho it might increase my guilt level, possibly even sufficient to force me to write. I’m toying with the notion of printing out the picture of Joe’s office, hanging it on the wall beside me, and imagining that I’m inside it. I offer no such advice, however.


    “…Little we see in nature that is ours…”

    • Interesting point you make….guilt. I hadn’t realized it but yes, I now realize I feel guilty when I leave my main project and work on other thing. (ie a short story idea that’s been tugging on my brain).

      It’s a large commitment, a marriage of sorts, to tackle a new novel. The road ahead is long with unseen bends, and usually dark. (cue Doctorow quote: Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.)

      But taking time away to write a short story, a sonnet or even a blog post is, well, a fling. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to do. It refreshes the writing muscles. But yeah, you feel a little guilty.

      Thanks for weighing in.

  2. Love the phrase Bliss Station. I do this daily. My office overlooks what we call “Animal Planet” because of its constant fulfillment of wildlife. As soon as I arrive, I open the WIP. No email. No social media. Nothing but my headphones and my keyboard. Ever since I started this routine, I’ve banged out more books faster than at any other time in my career. I wouldn’t be here on TKZ this early if I hadn’t had a guest yesterday.

    Hope you found your Bliss Station on your walk, Kris!

    • I think you’re onto something, Sue. I have my Bliss Station in an office room with a view of a wooded setting. My problem is that everything else begins to “invade” my writing space. I need to return to WRITE FIRST.

      Kris, I hope you find a solution!

    • I did! I did my 4 mile walk around the lake. Saw a family of deer. And this morning, I got a hummingbird on my balcony flowers. Very cheering.

  3. Thank you for this Kris. There’s a lot in the world to niggle away at our brains, if we let it. And I’ve been letting it. A bliss station! What a great concept. And your delineation about it not being ‘where you are’ so much as ‘where your head is.’ So helpful. So appreciative! Thank you.

    • You’re welcome Lisa. Was re-reading it this morning and hoping it didnt sound hopeless. My funkitude is lifting today. 🙂

  4. This is where I’ve been for the last two months. I have my office space, and can’t seem to write anywhere else, so it’s not the where. Getting my head back into the game is the challenge. Without a real deadline, it was too easy to ignore the wip.
    I recall a speaker at an event saying his editor told him he was frittering away those 15 minutes–all the little gaps when “nothing” is going on. He started carrying 3×5 cards and writing plot points, scene ideas, anything that would have him using the time more productively than all the other worldly distractions.
    I’ve limited my news to a quick skim of the NYT daily briefing to avoid negativity. Since our dog had her surgery, she’s restricted to a portion of the deck, so our daily walks have been curtailed. I try to get out there myself, but it’s not the same.
    A couple days ago, I went back to my board of sticky notes and just picked one point I’d marked as needed followup. I sat down and wrote it, then went back and filtered in the requisite foreshadowing.
    It felt good to be writing again.

    • Yeah, those 15 minute little gaps add up, don’t they. I am considering getting a second laptop that will have no internet access.

      Hope your doggo’s doing well. I tell my sister and friend Linda when they get down: Go walk your dog, even though you don’t have one.

  5. For me, the “bliss” comes from getting lost again in the writing. The “noisome pestilence” of the world is the enemy. As Bradbury put it, “You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.”

    Often this means writing something that is not connected to my WIP, but just to play. Morning pages, etc.

    • Yes, once I get a little mo going with writing, I quite literally get in a zone where the world truly drops away. Used to happen to me when I practiced the piano. Would look up and it would be dark in the house…I hadn’t noticed the hours slip away. Love that feeling.

  6. I’ve struggled with this for years. I have a writing room, so I have a dedicated bliss station, which is more than many do, but distractions, especially the internet, would constantly tug at me. Projects took longer because I kept having to check my email, and that would lead to looking up “one thing” which would open a Pandora’s box of distraction. Even the Internet blocking software Freedom wasn’t a sure thing, because with cloud storage, I couldn’t set up a completely offline session.

    I read advice from Dean Wesley Smith for years about having a writing computer that stays offline, but I kept resisting. Finally, last month, I bit the bullet and bought a no frills Mac Mini, loaded it with music (like Sue, I write to music), and keep it disconnected from the Internet. It doesn’t know my WiFi, and the LAN cable is tucked away. I transfer saved files from it to my internet laptop via flashdrive, and upload there to cloud storage, after the writing is done for the day. It’s made a huge difference. It’s my bliss station. Not everyone can do this, if you can, it can help free you from internet distraction at least.

    • Ha. As I said above, I am considering getting a second laptop so I am forced into isolation.

      • Great minds think alike 🙂 It certainly is enforced isolation, but, at the same time, for me, it’s also a wonderful private playground for the imagination.

  7. I like the idea of a mental bliss station. I’m fortunate to have my own office. It’s the guest room, but when there are no guests, the Murphy Bed is tucked up into its cabinet, and it looks like a real office. After a quick breakfast, I head to my office, coffee in hand, close the door and open the laptops.

    I’m not a very social person, so social media isn’t much of a draw. I post daily to Twitter (X) and occasionally to FB and IG, but I don’t spend much time there. (I feel guilty that I don’t respond to my friends’ posts like I should.) We got rid of cable TV ages ago, and my news source is usually a quick look online.

    But I find most of my creative thinking takes place off-site. (i.e., not sitting at my desk.) My best ideas come when I’m reading, running, or (trying to come up with another “r” word here), relaxing.

    Enjoy your walk.

  8. I’ve been going through something similar for some time. I won’t go into details, but I’ve found the only solution (for me) is in two parts.

    Part 1, I sit down, drop a character with a problem into a setting, and start writing.

    I write whatever comes, to the best of my ability, but just for fun. Just to find out what happens in the character’s story.

    The problem doesn’t have to be “the” problem of the story. That will come when it’s time. But just to get started, to get the fingers moving over the keyboard, a character with a problem in a setting works every time.

    Part 2 is keep doing that until an opening grabs you so that you get lost in it, as James Bell alludes to.

    • 1. Put butt in chair.
      2. Stare at screen.
      3. Move fingers over keys
      4. rinse, repeat.

  9. Timely post. I’ve been struggling over a rewrite for a chapter for 3 WEEKS now, and I don’t understand why I can’t finish it. But I think you’re right. I keep thinking about other things, and going to the internet because these days, being on the internet makes one feel productive.

    Unfortunately, my favorite bliss station is outside on the swing, and that’s not viable a lot of the year. I’ll have to find something inside.

    • Yes! Being engaged on the internet, even during research, does make you feel productive. But it’s an illusion. 🙂 Sweeping the bird seed off my balcony makes me feel productive as well.

  10. Kris, right now I’m reading Conrad’s Power of Myth (published in 1988) and recognize that passage. He talks about the chaotic disarray of the world and how it undermines psychological structure built on centuries of myths. He worried people have lost touch with that.

    If he was worried in 1988, imagine what he’d say now.

    Lately my routine has been disrupted b/c I haven’t been able to take normal daily walks. Walking is my bliss station where a lot of mental work gets done. W/o walking, I have trouble focusing enough to write. W/o writing, I’m out of sorts. No walk, no write (or at least nothing worth keeping). Vicious circle.

    Hope your walks help regenerate your creativity.

    • I need to reread that darn book. I had to do for a college course and I wasn’t a writer in those days. Just trying to not sleep thru the 8 a.m. class. It would mean so much more to me now.

  11. I have a procedure – I always get to this point and need digging out periodically: to ask myself, in my Fear Journal, what the heck is keeping me from writing TODAY – and I just keep asking, day after frustrating day, until the answer finally comes out.

    The current one was resolved by realizing I had a treasure trove of half-finished prompts for the final volume in my mainstream trilogy – the execrable ‘rough draft’ from 2007. My writing has improved since then, but the draft is loaded with the decisions I made about plot and characters – and is surprisingly accurate about details I’d forgotten while publishing the other volumes (all those years passing will do that to you).

    I’m reading through it with pleasure, and making copious notes – and it was exactly what I needed to get back to work – this time.

    It’s always something. It always gets figured out – and always by writing to my muse/self/subconscious until we both get tired of going in circles and solve the problem.

    • I get that. I have found unfinished MSs in my old external drives (I must have 12 of them gathering dust). Sometimes, I screw up my courage and read my old stuff. Mostly it’s really bad. But every so often there’s a passage that makes me smile and remember how I felt in those days — fearless! I didn’t know how uncrafted it all was back then. I was just plowing through. I remember it as joyful. Now I know the joy, when it does come, is hard-earned and fleeting.

  12. This is a JIT post. Just In Time. Thanks, Kris, for posting this. Struck a full orchestra chord in me. The title drew me in immediately.

    News is a killer for me. Talk about chaotic! There’s something in me that “needs” to know what happened last night. I must relegate that need to some other time.

    But sometimes, it’s just life. I’m supervising the care of my father right now, which necessitates a trip into town 3-4 days a week. For some reason, even though the trip is a mere 15 mile round trip, I’m exhausted the rest of the day. So, I try to start early in my office-then when we get home, I read for pleasure the rest of the afternoon.

    And I cherish the days I can stay home. Bliss Station. Today is one of those. And I do have my own office where I can shut the door and hear nothing but birds and dogs outside. And the bang of the keyboard inside.

    • I’m with on the siren call of the news, Deb. It can be a huge time sync. I need to get back to no news first thing. Good luck with everything you have going on!

    • Caring for a relative, especially a parent, is exhausting. Been there with my mom in law through dementia. There was no energy left at day’s end for creative-me. I, too, read like a fiend during that time.

  13. Dealing with a parent’s situation is a huge energy-sucker and demands perfection we can’t always deliver. I belong to an organization where I can check in, in person or by electronic means, to restore balance and a measure of sanity, dealing with life imperfectly, one thing at a time, one unit at a time, not trying mentally or physically to do everything, everywhere, all at once.

    ꧁༺ “…𝓣𝓪𝓴𝓮 𝓽𝓱𝓮𝓻𝓮𝓯𝓸𝓻𝓮 𝓷𝓸 𝓽𝓱𝓸𝓾𝓰𝓱𝓽 𝓯𝓸𝓻 𝓽𝓱𝓮 𝓶𝓸𝓻𝓻𝓸𝔀: 𝓯𝓸𝓻 𝓽𝓱𝓮 𝓶𝓸𝓻𝓻𝓸𝔀 𝓼𝓱𝓪𝓵𝓵 𝓽𝓪𝓴𝓮 𝓽𝓱𝓸𝓾𝓰𝓱𝓽 𝓯𝓸𝓻 𝓽𝓱𝓮 𝓽𝓱𝓲𝓷𝓰𝓼 𝓸𝓯 𝓲𝓽𝓼𝓮𝓵𝓯.” ༻꧂

    • Yes. Becoming a parent to your parent, I think, is what’s most difficult. Especially when said parent has always been the image of strength and self-sufficiency, and unfortunately, is aware of the loss of control of his life.

      ꧁༺ “…𝓣𝓪𝓴𝓮 𝓽𝓱𝓮𝓻𝓮𝓯𝓸𝓻𝓮 𝓷𝓸 𝓽𝓱𝓸𝓾𝓰𝓱𝓽 𝓯𝓸𝓻 𝓽𝓱𝓮 𝓶𝓸𝓻𝓻𝓸𝔀: 𝓯𝓸𝓻 𝓽𝓱𝓮 𝓶𝓸𝓻𝓻𝓸𝔀 𝓼𝓱𝓪𝓵𝓵 𝓽𝓪𝓴𝓮 𝓽𝓱𝓸𝓾𝓰𝓱𝓽 𝓯𝓸𝓻 𝓽𝓱𝓮 𝓽𝓱𝓲𝓷𝓰𝓼 𝓸𝓯 𝓲𝓽𝓼𝓮𝓵𝓯.” ༻꧂

      I love this. I hope every day that Dad remembers this truth that he taught me long ago.

  14. I’m so glad to know I’m not the only one struggling to write these days! Not that I’m happy the others can’t write, but you know what I mean…

    I know the solution is to park myself behind the computer and work on the story, but if it were that easy, we all would do it and I would have 2K instead of 200.

Comments are closed.