I’ll tell you a secret: while I love the idea of writing on a cool fall evening, pouring my heart out into the depths of a worn notebook, it’s not very realistic.
What would actually happen is I’d sit down with my laptop, begin fleshing out a story idea when OH! I need to research That Thing That Will Probably Only Make Up One Sentence In My Book right now!
So I’ll open a new tab, type in a Google search and be flooded with pages upon pages of information. While I’m wading through the dregs of the Internet, my phone will ding. I’ll pick it up and answer the text… and I might as well check Pinterest since I’m already on my phone.
An hour later (And still on Pinterest), Mom will call me to ask if I’ve loaded the dishwasher yet. I’ll get up and do it, grumpily, because Can’t she understand she interrupted my writing?
After that it will be time to eat dinner; I’ll look back on another afternoon wasted on technology when I could have been writing.
Now, don’t get me wrong—technology is great. Honestly, I probably wouldn’t have passed AP Physics without videos from the Internet. However, just like almost everything, there is a time and a place for technology. As writers, it’s easy to feel like we are doing productive research when we are actually wasting time doing basically nothing.
But I’m not naive. While I would love to endorse pouring your heart out into the depths of a worn notebook, I know that for the majority of us it’s just not possible. Maybe some of you actually use a notebook to write, and if so, more power to you! However, I have over three hundred pages from novels and short stories in various states of completion, all on that wonderful application called Google Drive.
So for me, switching to writing solely in a notebook probably would be more trouble than it’s worth. Right now you’re wondering, “Then why is she blogging about writing unplugged?”
I’m not suggesting we all unplug completely from technology while we are writing. I just think that it would benefit a lot of us to find a healthy balance between technology and traditional pen-and-paper writing. And so y’all don’t have to figure it out on your own, this is how I have gone about doing that:
When it’s time to write, write.I often find myself looking for distractions if I’m having trouble getting into the scene I’m writing.
I’m always tempted to find a new song to listen to every five minutes, which is a real time killer. Lately, I’ve started to either set up my own playlist of pre-chosen songs or find one song I really like and find a ten hour loop of it on YouTube (I would like to point out that I do not actually write for ten hours at a time - but with the ten hour loop I know I won’t have to go back and choose another song because I won’t be writing for ten hours, if that makes sense).
I also set my phone to “Do Not Disturb” so the tempting sound of a text alert doesn’t draw me into the internet like a siren song.
Save research for a designated time.
I don’t let myself research when I’m trying to write. The thing about research is that it is deceptively easy to feel productive and not actually get anything done.
To combat this, I sort of took the Go Teen Writers story workbook and ran with it; now I have a ‘to do’ list for things I have to research organized by topic, page number in my book, and specific questions I need answered. It is a godsend, and I really recommend it (I would also like to point out that I was not paid to endorse this blog but I’m going to anyway because it really is amazing).
If you don’t have a workbook set up, keep a notebook by your desk and write down things you are tempted to look up.
Write by hand
Next is where the "writing unplugged" part comes in. I think it’s really important for anyone who writes to use a pen and paper at least once a day (and no, your math homework doesn’t count). There have been a bunch of studies done about how writing by hand stimulates the brain and actually increases your creativity, which I’ll take when I can get.
Since I don't write my novel by hand, I:
Write a journalIt’s actually a fantastic way to improve your skills while getting away from technology. My little sister hated journalling until she started doing it in verse, so maybe that’s something y’all could try.
Keeping a journal is the best of both worlds when it comes to writing: you get the sensory experience of writing with a pen, but you are still free to do writing and research on your computer.
So, that’s my take on writing unplugged. Thanks so much to Shannon, Jill and Stephanie for letting me post so late! See y’all on the shelves someday!
Do you struggle with technology distracting you while you write? What tips do you have for writing unplugged?