I’d not normally need any virtual assistance in the twice-weekly process of buckling down and getting some writing done. Far from bunking off, I’m usually I’m thinking too much about my latest project. In any normal week I’ve driven my family to distraction by Wednesday, my tendency towards a thousand-yard stare during normal conversation a sure sign I’m off in another world, present but not really present.
Nowadays though, when I’m not home-schooling the kid and I’m trying to get some writing done… things are different. Emails are pinging in, WhatsApp groups are chattering, mates at a loose end are sending me cat videos and news updates are either imminent, in progress or, having just finished, are the subject of immediate and endless analysis.
I’ve had to turn to the App Store for help. I’d heard others recommend a swathe of internet-blocking tools, Freedom most prominent among them, but what had recently caught my attention was a recent attendee at a Storycraft creative writing session tell me about Forest.
Forest has got me sorted. It’s not a blocker, as such – you can leave the app to check email and surf the web anytime you want – but if you do, your tree dies. You read that right. Your TREE DIES, people; the lovely little thumbnail of growth you’re nurturing, paradoxically through your inattention. (If only home-schooling were as easy, right?)
You select a period of time for uninterrupted tree-growth and the app plays rainforest sounds in your ears for the duration. Every time to pick the phone up, it encourages you gently back to work. It’s the second-best thing that’s happened this week, behind my timely delivery of lockdown Rioja.
Only problem? It doesn’t monitor what it is you’re doing. It has no idea how you’re spending your away-from-the-phone time.
Like, say I was writing a quick blog-post instead of assiduously plotting the re-write of the second act of this thriller I should be working on. Let’s just say. Well, if I was, Forest would never know. Shhh. Don’t tell.
p.s. The Storycraft session went well:
I once visited a school so posh it had won Tatler's Restaurant of the Year in the Education category. I had salmon with samphire for lunch that day.
My recent visit to Shrewsbury School was equally as impressive. The food was great of course and the campus utopian; there were swimming pools, lecture halls, strange courts for a game called fives, acres of manicured sports field, a school chapel. But the library - guys the library. It had a Turner painting hanging on the wall. Behind toughened glass was a first edition of Origin of Species. Signed. Charles Darwin was an alumni so there were hand-written scribbles made by the man himself in his own textbooks.
The staff were lovely, the students terrific; clever, thoughtful, funny. I spoke to one who had their own ski-instructor. A great start to WBD week. Thanks so much to all the terrific folk who bought a book and everyone who helped make the talks and workshops such a success!