A screenfree day is tougher than you may think

and why you should give it a try anyway

Can you imagine to spend an entire day without opening the laptop or the computer – even once? Can you imagine to even not watch TV, nor access internet on your phone?

If you say yes very quickly, be warned. Take me as an example. I don’t even have a smart phone, nor a TV. All I have is a laptop. And that machine seems to run every hour of every day. It only stops if there is a blackout. Always too late I realise that magically it managed to suck up my time once again.

When A is away, I keep myself busy with the laptop. I write, I apply, I connect, I search for inspiration and information. When A is around, we sometimes sit on our laptops and work. It is a great motivation to have someone working on the other desk. It makes me be productive, too.

But we don’t talk. We forget that there is so much to share, as in, verbally. We forget that each of us has very little time on this planet and that sometimes there are more important things than facebook. We forget that life happens outside, there are people and the sun and noises and impressions that no screen can ever capture nor reproduce.

So I gave it a try. I believe I read about it at slowyourhome.com but it is so long ago that now I can’t find it anymore. Once a week we don’t open the laptops. That means we don’t read emails, news or anything else.

We do laundry instead and clean the apartment. We go out and visit friends. We join events. Then we have dinner. And then we are stranded.

We have talked to each other the whole day and we are sitting in our clean apartment with full stomachs and we just don’t have anything else to do anymore.

In this case, it is amazing how much entertainment you could always find online. You could get lost on social media, look and read what other people are putting up there (because somebody always has just put something up there), you could follow the news or just watch videos.

Screenfree evenings often find us playing cards. Or we take a last walk in the evening. Or we read actual paper books.

When I go to bed after a screenfree day, my mind is much calmer than when I lay down just after having switched of the laptop. I have more ideas coming from my heart, I am more balanced and more with myself, more centred.

It’s because I am not exposed to the light of the screen, which arguably might have some effect on our health. I didn’t sit in that computer position the whole day but moved around. It’s also because I have not swam in the constant rush and noise of the internet. And it’s because I had beautiful encounters and talks and experiences.

Can I challenge you? Switch it off! Just for one day a week. And then let me know how it was, in the comments below.

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Finally, there is a description for what I want to be: a multipotentialite

Including several things you may not know about me

Are you someone who cannot give a one-word-answer to the notorious question: So, what do you do? Someone who has several passions that don’t fit together at all at first sight? Then you are like me. And there is a term for describing us: Multipotentialite.

What a relief to learn that I am not alone. There is nothing wrong with not being able to pin down that one thing you’ll do until retirement. I am so happy to join the Puttyfest!

puttyfest theme

Potential Number One: Writing

Recently I made a bold statement. It went like: “I think I am a writer.” People always told me I should become a writer. I never really believed them because you cannot really make a lot of money with writing. I’m striving to become better each day, but not for money any more. Now I have less problems to say “I am a writer.” I am writing this blog, for other blogs and also some fiction. So what am I?

Potential Number Two: Music

They also said I should be a singer. Everywhere I lived, I joined a different choir. I also had private lessons in classical singing. I love to sing. Always and everywhere. But I am sure that I am not going to sing for an income. I don’t want to sacrifice the pleasure I get from music.

Potential Number Three: Farming

Another big interest of mine is permaculture, a sustainable way of farming. One day I will run a small permaculture farm. That used to be a crazy idea in my head. Now it is somewhere between a dream and a goal. I am not yet consciously working towards it, but I know one day I’ll make it.

Potential Number Four: Kenya

My second home is Kenya, where I volunteered in many different projects. I am involved in the building of a polytechnic school and a clinic. I am currently designing a proposal for a project of planting trees in schools and prisons. I might set up an online platform for a teacher to teacher mentoring. For friends and anyone interested, I am working on a preparation course for people coming to Africa, to deal with prejudices and lay the foundation for a more open traveling experience.

Working mode: Volunteering

I am not getting paid for all this. Leading a minimal lifestyle allows that. The strong belief that some things just have to come from the heart makes it necessary. It feels right.

And an honest advice concerning academics

I always studied out of interest, not in order to embark on any kind of career path. I studied Cultural Sciences and African Studies mainly, within three years, strictly and determined to finish, and I had a lot of fun and aha-moments. I also took a course on creative writing and Community Development. And I have a master degree in journalism.

Study what interests you, not what seems to offer good job opportunities. Do it in the time you need, but finish when it becomes an excuse for not making the next step.

Now, where does that put me on the job market? My ideal occupation would be a writing farmer. Who holds music and culture events on the farm. And sends the proceeds to Kenya. While trying to help erase destructive prejudices. There you go! I just created my occupation.

And that is what I am looking for: an occupation. Not a job.

What are your passions? And what is the craziest way to combine them? Tell me in the comments below!

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We should learn a lesson from these young writers

(A bold manifesto for doing work with passion)

What would your mum say if you told her: “I’m a spoken word artist”? I mean, does that even count as a proper job description? Apparently it does.

There is a new generation who has no problem with standing up and saying “I am a writer.” Or – and I consider them even more brave – “I am a poet.”

“But what’s your job?”

I met them last weekend, at the Story Moja Festival in Nairobi. Young writers from Kenya and Uganda read their contributions to Africa 39, an anthology bringing together 39 writers from Africa under 40 years. I asked them how they react when people hear that they are writers and then ask: “But what is your JOB?” Apparently, the most concerned people are usually the mothers. Clifton Gachagua explained how his mother’s doubts turned into pride when her son’s work was published in an anthology.

Find likeminded people

Another stage was full of young poets, poetry slammers and spoken word artists and they were all friends. Some colleagues of them were sitting in the audience and they talked respectfully about each other and spoke about gigs and events they had done together. They are not competitors, but companions. They advise and support each other. “You need to read your contemporaries,” said Linda Musita.

The role of a writer

There was also the debate about whether artists can or should be activists. Wole Soyinka from Nigeria, the first African to receive the Nobel Prize for literature, gave a moving yet controversial lecture. He talked about Boko Haram and other terror groups and said: “As writers we should tell them they lie.” But when Linda Musita was asked what the role of a writer in society is, she answered: “The role of a writer is just to write.

Language and identity – a boring debate

In Kenya, at least 46 different languages are spoken. Therefore, questions about identity and language come up on a regular basis. However, I recognised a lot of eye-rolling among the panellists.

For many young writers it doesn’t matter whether they have found their identity and whether that is expressed in the way they use (a) language(s). A writer is there to write. And a lot of the discussion that comes afterwards is old and hackneyed. Okwiri Oduor even said “I write in many Englishes.”

It is time to stop caring.

It is time to do exactly what we want, whether there is a name for it or not.

It is time to connect with likeminded people.

Not in order to define some kind of identity or represent some cause or to fit in some job description. But to do it for the sake of it.

It is time we do what we do because we cannot do anything else.

It is time we do what we do because we cannot NOT do it.

Let’s do it with passion.

Let’s be informed about what is going on in our circle. Let’s learn from our colleagues.

And let’s stand for it.

What are you passionate about, despite the lack of a proper job description? Tell me in the comments.

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