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Should you have a Walden Zone?

We spend all day surrounded by beeping, blinking gizmos. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a room in your home designated as a place with no communications devices? One writer has coined a new phrase for this idea: a Walden Zone.

In the book Hamlet’s BlackBerry, writer William Powers defines “Walden Zone” as “a room where no screens of any kind are allowed.” It’s a place of tranquility where you can escape from crowds, like Henry David Thoreau retreating to Walden Pond.

I’m sure writers can relate to this idea. Part of being creative is being able to focus. And today, we writers who embrace technology are experiencing a focus crisis. The problem becomes increasingly urgent as computers and mobile devices become more powerful, more satisfying to use, and more alluring. These seductive gadgets are built for multitasking, engineered to help us monitor a steady stream of input with a portion of our attention. We are being set up to consume and create information simultaneously.

A Walden Zone won’t singlehandedly turn you into Thoreau. But it might help you formulate writing that resonates and lasts, as opposed to quick-hit commentary and riffs on existing culture. Shutting off extraneous input—no TV, no phone, no Internet—frees up mental space to concentrate on bigger ideas.

It’s healthy to structure your life with separate zones for work, play and reflection. The next logical step is to set up a strictly screen-free zone—a Walden Zone—and summon the willpower to stick to it.

Image: Thoreau’s cabin from an early edition of “Walden,” via Google Books.

— By Daryl Lang. Filed under Language, Technology, Words

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