Want to find your best stories? Do this in restaurants.

People in a restaurant

I’m breaking a rule by writing to you today.

This week – last Friday until today – I was supposed to be in New York. On the final trip of a spate that has lasted almost three months, I was going to be hanging out with my mum, who had a week-long job there. But then her job got cancelled, and so I decided to do something I’ve never done before:

Take an internet break.

Email and social media. Not because I’m in the woods, not because it’s Christmas, just… to see what happens.

What’s happened is that, in my head, I’ve frantically been composing Facebook posts and Instagram captions and the blog where I share on the internet what it’s like to stop sharing on the internet. Certainly, that’s what happened like WILD the first two days.

But… it’s waning. And something else is happening. And this is the part that I think you’ll find the most interesting.

A few weeks ago, I listened to (and LOVED) Amy Jo Martin’s interview with Simon “28m views for his TED Talk” Sineksimon_sinek. At one point, what he said struck me so hard that I paused the podcast, opened up my note-taking app, and started transcribing. Here are some direct quotes from that interview:

“Our subconscious brain has access to 11 acres of information that we don’t. If we don’t give our minds time to wander, we’re forcing our conscious brains to solve all the problems. Which is stupid.

When your friend goes to the bathroom, don’t pull your phone out! Look around the restaurant for five minutes!
You don’t have to be engaged all the hours of all the days! twitter_bird_logo

We cannot have innovation and great ideas if we’re not allowing our limbic brains – our subconscious brains – to help us solve the problems that we face.

This is not my opinion – this is biology! This is how the brain works!”

(listen to the whole interview, on Amy’s EXCELLENT new podcast – here: amyjomartin.com/whynotnow)

Side note – when I posted one of these quotes on Twitter, a friend of mine who recently had dinner with me (and my tiny bladder), responded:

screen-shot from Marsha's messenger

SO. I’ve been trying this out.

On Saturday, when my nephew (who I was babysitting) was due for a nap, I decided to take a 40 minute walk. Ordinarily, I bike and almost never walk anywhere. As usual, I thought, Awesome! As I walk and he sleeps, I can listen to so many business podcasts!! But then I realised that my iPod (which functions as my smart phone)(I have a flip-phone, because I am from the ’90s) was out of batteries.

So instead… I just went for a walk. With nothing else to entertain me. It was WILD.

Then, hanging with friends over the weekend, when they would go to the bathroom, instead of checking my Instagram likes (which is something I do a LOT), I would… pick up a book, and read a paragraph or two. I KNOW.

This has resulted in two things:

(1) A deep sense of calm

It’s not all-pervasive. I still feel the jangling call of all the things I’d been hoping to get done on these few days (I’ll clean my whole house! I’ll Marie Kondo all my stuff! I’ll hang with loads of friends! I’ll do a bunch of non-work writing!), a list that I’ve barely made a dent in.

But I do feel much more like I’m in control of my life. Like I can breathe – and those jangles can wait for me until I’m ready.


I love books, but I never have time for them. I see people reading in cafes and think, Who ARE you, that you have time to do this??  This pause is allowing me to be one of those people.

The book I’ve been reading in cafes is Marion Roach Smith’s “The Memoir Project: A Thoroughly Non-Standardized Text For Writing and Life”. She spoke (alongside me) at Jeff Goins’ Tribe Conference last week and the way she talks – and, I’m discovering, writes – makes something tremble, deep inside my soul.

In the book, she gives guidance and inspiration on finding which scenes from your life you can write about. Usually, I find I have to dig around for these, little shiny stones in the dirt. But with the mental space I’ve given myself this weekend, ideas have been pouring out. Some for the blog. Some maybe not to be printed or posted (Marion Roach Smith puts great emphasis on this last – your memoirs don’t have to be for full public consumption: maybe you want to tell your kids about their grandparents; maybe you the story of your dead dad is bursting out of you).


Today I officially end my online fast.

But I’m hoping to take it forward. I’m considering trying it again every Friday – Monday. I know that I could, in theory, just be more disciplined about when I look at email and social media in my day-to-day. But at the age of 39 – ten years after I first joined Myspace – I know that I won’t. It’s definitely the school of abstinence where you put the cake (or the booze, or the computer game) in the high-up cupboard and lock the door, but that’s the school that seems to work best for me (which is why I have a flip-phone in the first place).

And you?

I’d like you to try having a little space.

One teacher of mine phrased it as,

“invite in small boredoms”

Try just sitting there and enjoying the pause, when the tap takes a while to get hot; when your computer is powering up; when your friend goes to the bathroom. people in a restaurant

(even if that’s five times an hour).


Make some space, and see if ideas for stories come creeping in.

(You can tweet that sentence, HERE)

Thanks so much for reading. If you’ve tried this – or if you have any thoughts on how best to – I’d love to hear them, in the comments. If you can think of someone else who might enjoy this idea, you can share this blog with them, using one of the round buttons below, or by clicking HERE to share on Facebook.

And if you now have some ideas of which story of yours to tell – but want help shaping the story – that’s literally my favourite thing I do. Have a look how, here: yesyesmarsha.com/workwithme

You rule!

xx (Yes Yes) Marsha


PS want to know my best-ever client secret – and get even more advice, tips, plus stories that I won’t put on the internet? Come and join the Yes Yes Family – it’s free! Just pop your details in below:

Photo Credits: StartWithWhy.comFarrel Nobel via the wonderful UnSplash.com


  • Catriona Munro

    Reply Reply September 28, 2016

    LOVE this!! Less internet = best internet. I love taking time off being online – there’s a lot of cool stuff to see and do outside a screen, and it does wonders for your stress levels when you’re not constantly plugged in. And it’s amazing how much of a book you can gt through while your pal’s at the loo (not sure if my friend’s not well or I’m a fast reader…)
    Thanks for this!

    • Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

      Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

      Reply Reply September 28, 2016

      Haha, maybe they have a week bladder like me but save it all up for one go!

      Thanks for stopping by – and for making me laugh :) :)


  • Jessica Barrett Halcom

    Reply Reply September 28, 2016

    “Y” Oh, I love this so much, Marsha! This is such a fantastic idea. I often wonder how we’ve become so uncomfortable with just “being” that we can’t NOT check our phones when there is any down time at all. We’re missing everything! I’ve noticed lately that I’m entirely too plugged in, and I need to rectify that. I’ve got to take more breaks. I feel like I’m just sucked in and especially right now during election time, I just want to escape it all. I’m actually leaving for a trip tonight to go out west for a week to hike and just be in nature. I hope that it opens up all sorts of creative blocks and takes my stress levels down.

    • Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

      Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

      Reply Reply September 28, 2016

      YES!! Naturetime without phones is the GREATEST for ideas! I prescribe telling people you’ll be entirely uncontactable (except for phone and text) while you’re gone, if you can.

      Have fun!!


  • Olivia T

    Reply Reply September 28, 2016

    Big fan of this post! I’ve been wanting to try to unplug this way for quite some time, but it hasn’t felt achievable because a big part of my job involves being online and connected into social media Matrix fetus pod-style.

    Great idea, though, to have bite sized pieces of the day that you normally fill with tech and the internet replaced with taking in your surroundings and letting your subconscious float up. That’s something that I can manage!


    PS: It somewhat reminds me of this Jack Reeves post which I also stumbled across because of you (so thanks for that as well!): Screen-free: A comprehensive how-to guide for your digital reset

    • Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

      Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

      Reply Reply September 28, 2016

      Hi Olivia!

      I totally feel you – Facebook is HUGE for my business. But I am thinking that taking a couple of days off a week might not be the end of the world. I know I should be only looking at FB and email at certain times of every day, but that’s sooooo haaaaaaarrrd.

      And I’m SO DELIGHTED that you should bring up and link to Jack’s blog! I blimmin’ LOVE HackTheGrind.net and was totally thinking about him as I wrote this post!

      Thanks, Olivia! So pleased you’re in the Yes Yes Family :)


  • Caroline

    Reply Reply September 28, 2016


    I love this! Funny, a dear friend and writer of YA fiction, Mitali Perkins, has challenged her friends to take an internet sabbath (Sat night thru Sun night) all through the fall, ESPECIALLY for the election season. I’m thinking hard about doing it as well. I’ll confess – I’m an addict, too. But I long to explore those “blank spaces” in my days more, too. Thanks for a great piece that made me laugh! As you do. Glad to be following you now. (First learned of you at Tribe.)

    Cheers, Caroline

    • Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

      Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

      Reply Reply September 28, 2016

      Ooh, i LOVE that! I’m thinking of doing the same – I was talking above about Friday to Monday, but certainly Sabbath hours feel more realistic.

      Thanks, Caroline! :) xxyyM

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