Elizabeth is an Australian blogger and hobby photographer, living in Melbourne after a lifetime in Queensland. She is undertaking a challenge to complete 101 Things in 1001 Days, and documents her progress here.  Scarlet Words is also home to stories about life in her newly adopted city, and news about all the cool stuff she discovers on the web. She’s owned by a little dog named Harry and has an embarrassing habit of introducing herself in the third person.


If you like, you can read even more about her here.










by Elizabeth on October 24, 2017 · 0 comments

in Life, Time lapse, Videos

A GoPro time lapse, shot at 5 second intervals.

Julia Isabelle, via Thought Catalog:
To the friends who loved me unconditionally when I hit rock bottom



by Elizabeth on August 5, 2017 · 2 comments

in Art

From nejma: an intimate and powerful collection by Nayyirah Waheed.

How are you?


Day Zero

by Elizabeth on June 20, 2017 · 4 comments

in 101 in 1001

Hi. Good thanks, you?

So anyway, I’ve been trying to find some way of managing the lack of control that I’ve been feeling about my own life in recent months. Some of the stuff that’s happening behind the scenes is good, some of it is great, and yeah… there’s some other stuff that’s pretty bloody bleak. But it’s 2017 which means that I can’t write about any of it here without the risk of bruising others, so I won’t.

Instead, I want to write about what I’m doing to regain control, and how I’m going to make sure that the good stuff keeps coming. You guessed it: it’s time for another round of 101 Things in 1001 Days!


My latest round begins today (20 June 2017) and finishes on my 40th birthday (17 March 2020).  If you’ve been around here for a while, you’ll already know about this project and how it works. If not, read on:

What is it?
101 Things in 1001 Days
is just like a bucket list, but better!  It’s a simple list of tasks with a realistic completion date of 2.75 years.  This is my third round, having completed the others in 2010 and 2014.

What’s on the list?
I have made an effort to only include tasks that I genuinely want to do, but perhaps needed an extra nudge to get me started.  You can read my full list here.

How can I make one?
It’s pretty addictive!  I’m pretty seasoned at building these lists now, so here’s my hot tips for making your own:

Keep it positive.
Your list should be energising, not a burden!  Too many boring jobs will make you quit.

Set definitive goals. 
“Run 5km without stopping” is measurable, “Get fit” is not.  Make sure you can define the point at which you can cross off each task.

Set a couple of big challenges. 
Give yourself at least one reason to feel super smug at the end.

Set a handful of tiny wins. 
There are days when your list will overwhelm you.  Make sure there are a few tasks that you can tick off without too much time, effort or money.  It really keeps the momentum going.

Make sure that you have enough time and cash to achieve it all in 1001 days.  If not, think about removing a few things to keep for your next list.  Be careful that you don’t design a plan that you can’t possibly pull off!


If you’d like to join me, and want a little inspiration, here are some links to tasks I’ve completed for past 101 Things challenges.

Build a snowman / 101 black & white film photos / 101 Fuji Instax mini 25 photos / DRAW ALL THE THINGS / Keep a swear jar / Take a flight in a hot air balloon / Go horseriding / Sleep under the stars / Carve a pumpkin for Halloween / Photograph a street scene in all four seasons / Climb Hanging Rock / Sew something with my sewing machine / Make something out of wood / Bake a rainbow layer cake / Complete a Diploma of Management / See the Red Sox play at Fenway Park / Complete a jigsaw puzzle / Build a gingerbread house / Visit 3 new states in the USA / Visit a famous landmark / Build a fort /

Here we go.  Wish me luck!


You tell me yours and I’ll tell you mine

by Elizabeth on June 11, 2017 · 0 comments

in Life

I haven’t known how to write here while my head is one big knot of thoughts, and anyway, it seemed like a good idea to untangle them a bit first.

Here’s where I’m up to.


What I’ve learned about grief is this:
Once you’ve experienced the ground disappearing from underneath your feet it’s difficult to keep your faith in the stuff you used to trust.  You stop depending on gravity, you begin looking around for quieter, rockier pathways, for stuff to grip on to in case your world flips another ninety degrees without warning.  You wear sensible shoes and colours that blend you right into the background, and many of the obstacles you fight are of your own creation. You prepare yourself for things that will probably never happen because none of the old rules apply.

What I’ve learned about grief is this:
It’s okay to feel grief while being surrounded by love and laughter, while being incredibly grateful for present joys.  It is possible to have a wonderful life and still find yourself stumbling over pain as deep as the ocean, all because GoogleAds targeted your demographic for pre-natal supplements and family passes to theme parks.  Get fucked, GoogleAds.

What I’ve learned about grief is this:
It comes and goes in waves, and sometimes I feel incredible strength and fragility all in the same day.  Sometimes the grief is an urgent, gaping hole in my lung and at other times it disappears like white noise into the background.  The moment you forget it’s there is when you’re most in danger of tripping over it again.

What I’ve learned about grief is this:
From here, everything looks different and it has taken time to start appreciating the new view, to stop wishing for the old one.  I made the most progress when I finally confronted it head on, learned the shape of my grief, named its parts and identified the bits I was strong enough to squash.  I’ve learned that I’ve had to rest a bit before tackling the final and biggest parts.


Sometimes I feel like a massive dickhead for not being over this yet.  Other times I remember to congratulate myself for managing to stay upright, for building some really great new stuff from the rubble.  Both things are true, even if it doesn’t make any sense.

Not much makes sense, but I’m learning to trust my instincts again and to put faith in old truths.

I’m okay, but I dunno.  I bet if you could see inside my head some days you would cross the road to give me a hug.



by Elizabeth on November 25, 2016 · 2 comments

in Life


Illustration by Antoine Doré


say something;

by Elizabeth on July 19, 2016 · 4 comments

in Life


You’d be forgiven for assuming that I never think of this place anymore.  It’s been 15 months since my last post and, whilst it feels like I’m sending this one out into the void (seriously, how and why are you reading this?) I decided it was time to say something here anyway.  This blog was originally intended as a kind of curated record of my life, and well… life has changed.

Tim and I went our separate ways a couple of months ago, after ten years together and mountains of memories and travels and shared experiences.  He’s living in a cute little apartment closer to the city and I’m still in the house that was ours for six and a half years.  It’s our first time living in different parts of the city that we chose together and everything is different now.

It’s weird, staying in this house.  There are rooms that look exactly the same as they always did, and there are times when I expect to turn the corner and see his shoes, or his desk, or that one fucking drawer that was never, ever closed.  For a while there it amazed me how even that drawer, now tightly shut, represented a loss.

It took time for Tim to find his new place, but eventually he did and then the removalists came for his things while I was at work. My best friend told me not to go home alone that night, but that’s what I did and the world did not end. Bit by bit I’ve rebuilt my home to disguise the indents in the carpet, the ghosts of furniture that I used to own but don’t belong to me anymore.

The furniture has been the easy part to solve.

Time is making everything easier, just like every feel-good movie promised.  I’ve figured out a morning routine which allows me to empty my dog and get to work on time.  I’ve started managing utility bills for the first time, and my old self-confidence is returning from wherever it’s been hiding.  I’ve stopped behaving like Olivia Benson every time I come home to my empty house, and I haven’t trawled cat adoption sites or dreamed about dying alone in literally days now, so I think I’m going to be okay.

There’s more to this story than I will ever write about here: the ‘why’, the sacrifices and collateral damage, the utter heartbreak suffered by both of us.  What I will say is that there was no third party and we have parted carefully as friends.


Now that the fog has lifted, for the first time in ages I can look ahead with a smile and truly appreciate the things that I still carry with me.  I know that I was so incredibly lucky to have been loved, and to have been a part of a wonderful family on the other side of the planet for the past decade.  Words cannot describe how grateful I am to have loved and been loved by each of those wonderful people.

The challenge for me now is to take the lessons I have learned from the past year, the terrifying and brave promises I have made to myself, and carry them into some sort of new future that will be so much different than the one I had previously imagined.  For me this means taking some big risks and keeping my bruised heart open when it would be so much easier to build a wall.  It means settling for nothing less than I deserve, advocating for myself like it’s my job, and filling my life with the good stuff.

And hey, there is so much good stuff to be thankful for.  These days my home is full of rad 90’s tunes that remind me of my happiest years, a warm pup, and friends who have turned up and been my refuge.  I have good health and good fortune and my burdens feel lighter.  I am excited by a future full of brand new possibilities.

So, I’m back.  Everything is different.  What have I missed?


A letter from Anna Spargo-Ryan to her daughters: I hope someone breaks your heart all at once


(note to self)

by Elizabeth on April 10, 2015 · 1 comment

in Life


{ 1 comment }

Take these thoughts

by Elizabeth on January 13, 2015 · 4 comments

in Life


Hey, remember when I used to have a blog?

I think about writing here most days, but each time I sit down to blog I remember how much time has passed since my last post and it’s overwhelming so I take a nap instead.  Could this be why I am the very last blogger on Earth to be offered a book deal?

So life has been great, terrible, amazing and awful since we last spoke.  Real talk: 2014 punched me right in the face and left a bit of a mark, and then I finished the year with an impressive bout of pneumonia.  Because really, why not be eighty-five years old all of a sudden?  I’m on the mend now, but there’s no ignoring the message that my body has been trying to send.  (I’m listening, please stop yelling…)

I have some really, really happy memories of 2014.  We started the year right with a visit from Tim’s family, which was special time together that we so rarely get to have.  My job (for the most part) was great last year.  I finished that enormous 101 Things in 1001 Days challenge that you’re all sick of hearing about, and achieved a few things along the way that I didn’t know I could do.  I made a bunch of art that I was proud of, and learned some new things.

But also?  2014 was hard in many ways, and although I’m not going to share the details in this public space it deserves acknowledgement of some kind.  I’ve been giving this year some serious side-eye until it proved itself, but the good news is that we’re off to a really good start.


Hey!  Let’s talk about something else.  Rah reminded me that each year I do this little quiz (except apparently last year I forgot) so here’s my 2014 round-up:

  1. What did you do in 2014 that you’d never done before?
    Tim and I took a quick trip to Perth, a place that neither of us had been before.  I ran a fun run for the first time and loved it.  I took an online ethics and justice course through HarvardX and aced the final exam.
  2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
    I don’t think I made any resolutions for 2014.  My only goal was to finish my 101 Things, and I DID.  This was such a big part of my year and it felt incredible to meet that deadline.
  3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
    Two of my best friends had tiny, handsome baby boys this year.  I am utterly in love with their teeny baby faces.
  4. Did anyone close to you die?
    My friend Yas had a short and gut-wrenching battle with cancer this year, and died leaving two little boys and her brand new husband behind.  You can read the last part of her story here.  I really wish you could have met her.
  5. What countries/states did you visit?
    Western Australia, New South Wales, ACT and Queensland.  No overseas travel this year.
  6. What would you like to have in 2015 that you lacked in 2014?
    Better quality sleep, and earlier mornings.  A bit of extra cash would be nice too.
  7. What dates from 2014 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
    Aside from the birthdays of new little people, no particular dates stand out.  I’ll probably always think of Yasmin every time we put up our Christmas tree because she tried so hard to make it home to see her own.
  8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
    The big achievement of my year was finishing my 101 Things in 1001 Days list, especially as I left so much of my list until the final year of the challenge!  But, if I had to choose a single “thing” from my list it would be that time that I pumped out 60 drawings and paintings in 3 weeks.  Like a goddamn maniac.

  9. Did you suffer illness or injury?
    Yup, it was a bad year for minor (but irritating) illness.  Mostly because of my busted lungs.
  10. What was the best thing you bought?
    The first thing that comes to mind is ArtGraf Black Carbon, because it totally transformed the way that I drew and painted this year.  I mean, this drawing below took no time at all – maybe half an hour?
  11. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
    A few good friendships have become even stronger over the past year, perhaps when I needed them the most.  I really do have excellent people in my life.
  12. Whose behaviour was appalling?
    Scott Morrison, Rupert Murdoch and everyone else who allows evil to be used against vulnerable people.
  13. Where did most of your money go?
    A bunch of money was spent on interstate travel this year, which is a pretty happy way to spend it.  Also all of the art supplies.
  14. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
    Probably the moment when I realised that I had a hope of meeting my 101/1001 deadline, as long as I devoted my days to getting it done.  It was so worth it.
  15. What song will always remind you of 2014?
    Rise Like a Phoenix by Conchita Wurst, because obviously.

  16. What do you wish you’d done more of?
    I wish I had made more art without a deadline.  I don’t think I’ve painted a thing since the end of my 101 Things project and that’s really dumb.
  17. What do you wish you’d done less of?
    Mindless internetting.
  18. How did you spend Christmas?
    We spent Christmas Eve with my parents, grandmother and a couple of other rellies.  Christmas Day was just Tim & I and my parents, which was pretty great and long overdue.
  19. What was your favourite TV program?
    I can’t just choose one show in 2014.  We continued to adore Game of Thrones, Downton Abbey and Mad Men, and we also discovered (and then mainlined) Orphan Black and Revenge.  We are super picky with our TV, but when we find something we love it CONSUMES us.
  20. What was the best book you read?
    That’s easy: Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and The Sea.  I expect that I will re-read it over and over again in my lifetime.
  21. What was your greatest musical discovery?
    Honestly?  Can we be real for a moment?  I love Taylor Swift’s 1989 completely and unironically.  There I said it.
  22. What did you want and get?
    I wanted to be better at drawing, and after lots and lots of practice I can say that I am.
  23. What did you want and not get?
    I wanted to buy a house, but I feel like we’re getting further and further behind.  Melbourne real estate is no joke.
  24. What was your favourite film of this year?
    The Grand Budapest Hotel.  Easy.
  25. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
    I have officially reached the age where I have to stop and think about my age.  Let’s see… I turned 34 last year, and Tim took me to the most incredible Italian restaurant at Crown Casino called Rosetta (one of Neil Perry’s babies).  They make their pasta and ricotta fresh every day, and every dish was better than the last.  Such a treat!  Tim gave me a ukulele for my birthday and my mission this year is to play it well.
  26. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
    Maybe a haircut?  Seriously, I need to stop cutting my own hair.
  27. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2014?
    2014 was the year that I started wearing navy instead of black.  I’m totally hooked, especially with hot pink lips and nails, and nude heels.
  28. What kept you sane?
    Long conversations with my closest friends.  Snoozes on the beanbag with my pup.  The coffee that magically appears in my car’s cup holder every morning because Tim is literally the greatest.
  29. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
    I’m not all that big on celebrity crushes, but if I could be best friends with Anne Hathaway that would be pretty great.  She’s probably reading this.
  30. What political issue stirred you the most?
    This year it’s really difficult to pick just one issue.  It was such a terrible, terrible year to be a member of any vulnerable group in Australia – especially if you were an asylum seeker, unemployed, homeless, elderly or a student.  Perhaps the most disturbing issue last year was the incubation of fear (by politicians and the media) of Islam. I find it too embarrassing (and infuriating) for words.
  31. Who did you miss?
    Family, both mine and Tim’s.  It’s been a bit lonely without them lately.
  32. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2014
    The art of unplugging.  This was the BEST, and I still haven’t turned my phone notifications back on.
  33. Quote a song lyric that sums up your yearTake these thoughts
    Put ‘em in your basement
    Take these thoughts
    And send them down the track
    Make sure they don’t come back

    Take these thoughts

    Take these thoughts
    Take these thoughts
    And if they come back ‘round
    Just burn the whole place down

    – Take These Thoughts by Chris and Thomas


Task #77 of my 101 Things in 1001 Days project: Take 101 photos with black & white film

There were very few tasks on my 101 list which truly spanned the full length of the 1001 day project, but this was one of them.  On 1 January 2012 one of the first contributions I made to my list was to shoot some photos with my film camera, and she was still working hard in the final few days of my challenge last week.   My little F80 travelled with me all over Melbourne and down the Great Ocean Road, although admittedly she was always the camera which was left behind when I had to pack for a flight!

Nothing could ever replace the anticipation of waiting for film to be developed. I usually sent in a few rolls at once without knowing what they contained, so every time I picked them up it felt a bit like Christmas morning.  For somebody so accustomed to the instant gratification of digital this was a much needed lesson in the art of patience and that was really satisfying.

I have a lot to learn about shooting with film, and like everything else on my list I would have produced far better results if I had been pulled in fewer directions.  But done is better than perfect, and I’m happy to have created a collection of 101 little black & white, analog memories.


(I’m testing out a new gallery plugin, and am especially curious to see whether this layout survives all the way through to my RSS reader.  If you’re reading this post through a newsfeed and don’t see a collection of thumbnails below please click through to my website instead.  I’d love to hear from you if you spot any problems!)


Happy 1001 Days! (101 Things in 1001 Days)

by Elizabeth on September 28, 2014 · 5 comments

in 101 in 1001, Life


I’m writing this post from the magical looking tent in the picture above, making me officially the luckiest girl I know.  Tim and I have spent the past few days glamping right on the beach near Sorrento, and late last night I braved the cold to take the photo above because I knew it would be a beauty.  The sky was crystal clear, and with no light pollution around the stars were just phenomenal.  We could even see the Milky Way, but tonight the sky is covered in cloud and it’s just as lovely listening to the rain tapping on our canvas roof.

My goodness, what a way to end a project spanning almost three years!  Today marks the very last day of my 101 Things in 1001 Days project, and I’ve only just put down my last classic novel: The Old Man and The Sea by Ernest Hemingway – the final piece of my final task.  With the waves crashing outside my door as I read, could there have been a more perfect location for this book without jumping on a plane to Havana?

There were times when I truly believed that I wouldn’t finish my challenge this time around.  Life threw me a few really good curveballs over the past two years, and I can name a couple of times when it would have been so easy to throw in the towel.  The temptation was there, but each time I considered caving in I remembered that I had a kickass list of tasks full of stuff I actually wanted to do.  What would be the point of quitting on the stuff I really love?

(Sidenote: if you are considering this challenge you must start by writing an amazing list.  When the going gets rough it had better be bulletproof.)

But really?  It was also other people who deserve the credit for convincing me to get back in the saddle each time I fell off.  Every comment, instagram like and retweet reminded me that I had pals quietly cheering me along, and that really really mattered.  It still amazes me that some of my biggest cheerleaders are people I’ve never met in the flesh.  You guys are rad and I’m so glad I live in the future.


I’ll keep this short, because my 101/1001 widower is snoring in my ear as I write this and I owe him the biggest cuddle.  We’re heading home to Melbourne tomorrow morning and then I will begin the process of digging through my archives to write a wrap up of all 101 tasks.

I will be just as relieved as you when I can go back to regular old blogging.  Soon!



101 Things in 1001 Days:

Task #89 – Draw or paint 25 figures
Task #90 – Draw or paint 25 faces
Task #91 – Draw or paint 25 hands
Task #92 – Draw or paint 25 still life scenes
Task #93 – Draw or paint 25 trees

Let me begin by saying that yes, this is one of those occasional image-heavy posts.  Now would probably be a good time for a cup of tea.


Back when I wrote my list of 101 Things in 1001 Days almost 3 years ago I was taking weekly classes at the Melbourne Studio of Art… and I was rapidly running out of cash!  Those classes were excellent for a complete beginner like me, and I knew that in order to keep getting better without a teacher I would need to draw constantly.  I set myself a pretty conservative goal to draw 25 figures, faces, hands, still life scenes and trees and resolved to chip away at it gradually.

Only that’s not what happened.  At least 60 of the drawings on the wall above were created in the past 3 weeks under a cloud of fear and sleep deprivation.

(I know, I know.  Believe me.)


The good news is it worked.  Even in the past 3 weeks I’ve seen my drawing improve, and the sense of urgency created by my deadline made me push through some of the mental blocks that I otherwise would have caved into.  Each evening as I sat at my dining table I resolved to pump out a certain number of drawings before bed, and that raw determination helped me to set an excellent pace.

There are very few finished pieces in the picture above – maybe only ten or so out of the whole bunch.  This in itself is a bit of a win for me because I’m far too likely to dwell in the details if left to my own devices.  Pure necessity drove me to draw, and then throw it to the side and draw again.  It felt good to have permission to move on, and to see the value and lessons contained in the ‘duds’.  And there were plenty of those!


I’ve spent an awful lot of time inside my own head in the past three weeks, thanks to this challenge, and I can’t adequately explain how this time ‘alone’ has changed things for me.  With a pencil in my hand I was constantly making decisions and solving problems on the paper in front of me, and before long I noticed my thought patterns shifting when I was away from my desk too.  Perhaps this is why people love meditation so much, the act of silencing the white noise and thinking more deliberately, more consciously.  That’s what I felt happening to me as I threw myself into these drawings.  Clarity, and lots of it.

It might sound cheesy, but I really did resolve a bunch of my own internal worries thanks to all these trees and boobs and bottles.

You guys, drawing doesn’t come naturally to me – not at all.  I don’t have a great deal of natural talent, I wasn’t born with an ‘eye’ for scale and perspective, and I will never have to stop working hard to create a beautiful drawing or painting.  I have accepted it, and even embrace it because I understand the personal value in sitting down and quietly solving a hundred little problems.  If the end result is good that’s fantastic, and if it’s not?  Well, there’s almost certainly a lesson in it for the next drawing.  Every little sketch strengthens a muscle.

I’ve put my best drawings below, and you can click the thumbnails to see a larger version.  Give yourself a round of applause if you make it to the end!


Task #79 of my 101 Things in 1001 Days project: Complete an alphabet photo series

For almost three years my deadline for the this project, 28 September 2014, has seemed a very long way away.  It’s hard to believe that I’m staring down the barrel of the final week.  Just 6 days to go!

This is the 88th completed task, and I promise that sounds far worse than it actually is.  So many of my tasks are neeeearly complete, and those that are yet to be started are part of a special plan for next weekend.  More on that later.

But first, enjoy this fun little photo series.  Each photo represents a letter of the alphabet, and the only rule was that I needed to find objects which accidentally formed the shape of the letter.  I tried to not take this too seriously so there’s a mixture of DSLR and iPhone photos in here.


I’ll be back soon with an update about some of the art I’ve been working on over the past couple of weeks. I seriously can’t wait to get back to normal blogging.  One more week…



Portrait from Scarlet Words on Vimeo.

Item #98 on my list of 101 Things in 1001 Days: make a time lapse video of a drawing or painting.

I spent Saturday at my dining table, surrounded by brushes and watercolours and paper.

With just 21 days to go until my deadline (eek!) I have a stack of drawing to get done, and by the end of today I started to feel like the lady in this drawing looks.  Over it.

Serves me right for procrastinating, I guess.

This facepalming lady was fun to make.  I’m starting to learn how to use water soluble graphite which, when paired with canvas paper, is magic.  You can pick the colour up and push it around the page until it looks just right, which is harder to do with traditional watercolour paper.  It’s nice to be able to hit it with the eraser to pull out the highlights too.

So, on with the rest of my drawings.  My main hurdle right now isn’t the number of drawings I need to complete, it’s that drawing is no fun at all when you have to quickly move on to the next thing without making it perfect.

If you’re interested in seeing my progress you can check out my hands, figures, faces, still life scenes and trees.  Whose dumb idea was it to draw so many trees?


#67: How to cure an #iSlave

by Elizabeth on August 26, 2014 · 2 comments

in 101 in 1001, iPhone, Life


Image source: Romance Academy


Task #67 of my list of 101 Things in 1001 Days: Have a technology-free weekend

Let me tell you about life without phones, screens and social media!  I’ve just spent a weekend free of all my gadgets and it was one of the best I’ve had in a long time.

I left work last Friday afternoon with my phone locked in my office cupboard, and by the time I reached the car park I already felt different.  It felt very liberating to be free of the buzz each time an email, text, tweet or Facebook notification came in and that was the moment that I realised just how wedded my subconscious had become to that sound.

Although I already had my suspicions, last weekend I realised the extent of my gadget dependency and how it has been affecting my life.  I am still a big believer in taking my phone with me whenever I leave the house (because flat tyres, stranger danger etc) but what really struck me is the way I’ve been using my phone to pass the time instead of getting on with living.

On Friday when I came home from work I dropped my bag, played with the dog for a while and then went to sit down at my computer like I normally do.  But then I remembered that it was turned off and my first thought was, “what am I going to do now?” and that really bothered me.  Let’s face it, you’ve seen my To Do list and I’m not exactly running out of material.

Image source: Melarky


The pain of being device-free was short-lived, however, and once it was over the benefits kept on rolling in.  By Friday evening I felt as though I could relax and stop consuming everybody else’s news for a little while.  My mind began to quieten down and I discovered that more of my own thoughts were getting a little airtime for the first time in ages.  My thoughts had stopped competing with the shouting phone in my hand, and it felt peaceful.

I had expected that my weekend would feel longer without screen time, but I was pleasantly mistaken.  Instead I found myself engrossed in my deliberately-chosen projects, experiencing them fully and without distraction.  The time trickled away, but without the usual sense of loss and regret that I normally feel after an unproductive day off. My mind was peaceful and I felt completely present in what I was doing.

The laundry still got done and the house was quickly tidied, but surprisingly it felt like a luxury to be using the rest of my time for my friends, books and painting.  Why did I feel so indulgent, when that time was all mine to start off with?  I hadn’t expected to feel actual guilt about pouring myself into my favourite things, and that’s given me plenty to think about. Is this part of the reason I’ve been reaching for my phone every ten minutes? Have I not been giving myself permission to do one thing at a time?



Image source: Hunter Langston


What I noticed

    • When I switched off my phone at 4.30pm on Friday I needed to be certain that Tim and I had decided on a meeting time and place for our Friday night date. And then I needed to be on time, not my forté by the way, because I knew that I couldn’t text Tim if I was running late.  (I was late, of course. I can’t help but wonder if living with a contingency plan in my pocket has something to do with that bad habit.
    • With no access to Siri or Google Maps I needed to plan ahead for where I was going, and what information I would need before leaving.  So much for my usual trick of googling a recipe from the supermarket floor!  I realised that having the internet in my pocket can be a mixed blessing because it feeds right into my tendency for procrastination, improvisation and avoidance of fully committing.
    • While normally I struggle to sit still for the length of a movie, last weekend I read a novel from cover to cover for the first time in ages.  Since there was no point in indulging my usual thought patterns  (I wonder if I have any emails to respond to?  I just thought of something I should tell the internet about immediately!) I was able to give it my complete attention.  Bliss!
    • Tim came home with roses on Saturday, and since I couldn’t record them with a picture I noticed I spent more time just looking at them.  Enjoying them.  Committing them to memory and noticing their tiny changes.  It was really nice.
    • Meal times were spent talking instead of staring at the TV (although, to be fair, we’re not big TV-watchers anyway)
    • When I was tired I went to bed and fell asleep straight away.


What now?

I switched my phone back on when I got to work yesterday morning with a small pang of sadness.  I was eager to check my email and read some news headlines, but once that was done I felt a strong desire to reduce the rest of the ‘noise’ before I fell back into old habits.

So here’s what I did:

    • I switched off all sound and pop-up notifications on my phone.  I left the badge notifications in place so that I can see at a glance when I have a Twitter or Facebook notification, but not until I choose to look!
    • I unsubscribed from about 90% of my promotional email lists.  Have you noticed how some online stores have a couple of sales every week?  Come on.
    • I’ve created a “Close Friends” feed on Facebook so that I can keep up with the most important news more efficiently
    • I’ll eventually create some similar filters for Twitter (#auspol, close friends, bloggers etc)
    • Ditched a bunch of pointless apps
    • Declared my side of the bed to be technology-free!  I’m even considering looking for an old-school alarm clock so that I can charge my phone overnight in a different room.

I feel absolutely no sense of loss about reducing the stuff I consume, because I don’t feel like I was really doing any of it justice anyway.  The more snippets of 140-character information I was reading, the more scattered my own thoughts became.  And worst of all it was getting in the way of the stuff that really mattered!

This short experiment has taught me so much about the value of slowing down and looking up.  Just imagine what impact an entire week might have had…



The art of unplugging

by Elizabeth on August 20, 2014 · 3 comments

in 101 in 1001, Life


I have a handful of tasks on my list of 101 Things in 1001 Days which have been kind of hard to get excited about.  Some of them are gym-related (no surprise there!) while others have challenged me to give up something I love.  That month without coffee was rough.

So it’s probably not surprising that I’ve waited until Day 965 to embark on Task 67: Have a technology-free weekend.

This Friday afternoon I’ll switch off my phone, lock it in my desk drawer at work and walk away.  I’ll put away my iPad and laptop too, as well as any other gadgets that would normally make an appearance in the course of a weekend.  There will be no TV, and when the sun sets the lights will mostly stay off – at least in the rooms that I’ll be in.

I’m going to spend a bit of time over the next two days working out exactly what “technology-free” will mean, and set a few rules for myself ahead of time.

Here’s the plan so far.


  • devices such as my phone, iPad, computers, digital cameras
  • social media and texts (obviously!)
  • dishwasher and microwave
  • lights, unless I’m working on something for my 101 Things list and candlelight won’t cut it
  • hairdryer & straightener (oh no!)


  • I can drive, but only if I really really need something that can’t be reached on foot
  • washing machine and heater
  • oven and stovetop
  • film cameras


Questions nobody has asked me yet:

But like, why?
This task isn’t really about the environment, or appreciation for how technology has made life easier.  I added it to my list because my phone has practically become part of my anatomy and it’s a major cause of distraction and procrastination.  I have a pavlovian reaction to the buzz of my phone and that bothers me.

Will you die?
I fully expect that my hand will reach for my phone constantly for the first day, and I’ll be slightly annoyed when I want to google something to get a quick answer.  But it’s just one weekend!

Mostly, I’m expecting the weekend to feel longer, for the pace to slow.  I’m anticipating that Tim and I will have more time to talk, and maybe I’ll finally have the brain space necessary to sit down and do a bunch of my drawing tasks too.

Will you cheat?
Yup!  There are a couple of allowances I have given myself.  For example, I’ve found an ancient, feature-free iPod full of who-knows-what music and I’m going to check it out over the weekend.  It will be a big step back from Shazamming a song and purchasing it in under 60 seconds.

However, I won’t ask Tim to look something up for me or help me break any other rules.

We haven’t really discussed this part yet, but I’ve already decided to not drag Tim into my device-free hell.  Instead, if there’s something he wants to watch on TV I’ll just take myself off to another room and do something else.  Who knows, maybe he’ll decide to power down too!

I secretly can’t wait for the peaceful, productive weekend ahead of me without the lure of all those screens.  If you miss me this weekend, just picture me wandering down to the corner shop to buy an actual newspaper (whaaaat?) with my frightening naturally-dried hair.  You can be sure that my phone will be buzzing loudly in my hand again by 8am Monday morning when I plug it back in!

If you have any other ideas for making this lo-fi weekend even better I would love to hear them!  Leave me a comment before Friday afternoon, or maybe you could leave me a tweet to look forward to on Monday?

See you on the other side!