Unplugging

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Unplugging

wiresWe’ve spoken quite a bit about the wonders of the digital age, from how it affects your own writing to how it can help market books to how it lets you connect with other tortured artists slaving away and being tortured while slaving away during torture.

As I assume you’re all aware (since you’re spending time on this here blog right now), there are tons of distractions out there to pull you away from your writing. It’s not just you, though. We agents can get distracted, too.

For example, this is literally what happened as I sat down to write this blog post: I needed a picture. My first thought was to grab a screen shot from The Matrix of Neo with that big ol’ plug sticking into the back of his head. While searching, I saw a photo of Monica Belluci, who appeared in the later Matrix films. Because I’m a sucker for gorgeous brunettes, I clicked on her photo (don’t YOU do it! It’s a trap!). Soon, instead of writing this post, I was looking at photos of a beautiful Italian actress. Simply unproductive, friends.

Different people deal with distractions in different ways. According to writer lore, Pulitzer Prize winner John McPhee used to tie himself to a chair using the belt on his bathrobe. Suzanne Young, author of The Naughty List, recently chronicled her Twittercation (or Tweebbatical, as I would have called it) on her blog. When I need to get down to business and dive into a manuscript without worrying about emails, Twitter, or who was chosen as the cute puppy of the day, I turn off the wifi on my computer.

How about you? Do you have to go to drastic lengths to get down and focus, or are you one of the lucky few who ignores Facebook, and blogs, and Youtube, and the wind blowing through the leaves outside and simply works?

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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Upstart Crow, Calista Taylor. Calista Taylor said: RT @UpstartCrowLit: Now on the Upstart Crow blog: Unplugging (http://tinyurl.com/yhgrju6) #writetip […]

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  2. When I unplug from the internet, the feeling of detachment distracts me. I’m much more productive if I know it’s all there but make a choice to stay “offline” for a certain amount of time. Convoluted perhaps, but it works for me. I also like to leave a TV or radio on in another room. I think it has something to do with being connected to the outside world.

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  3. I delete all my cookies and temporary files and internet history. The idea? If I feel like surfing and the web page isn’t in my history, then I ask myself–“Frankie, what the freak are you doing?” while I’m re-typing it.

    Usually, I step away.

    Sometimes, it takes until step two; typing in my log in name and password for the, “FRANKIE, what the FREAK are you DOING?!” to really hit home for me.

    And then I shake myself and get back to work.

    However, Google is still a problem.

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  4. If I turn off the Internet, and hold myself to it, until I’ve done my writing goal for the day, I’ve found I can be pretty productive in a hurry. 😉

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  5. Funny but oh, so true! If I’m in the middle of a first draft or serious editing, I stick with it for a number of words (1st draft) or pages (edit) and then take a small “internet break” to check my e-mail, twitter, StatCounter, etc. I keep the volume on low and glance up when a tweet comes in. After all, I couldn’t miss a Mention or Direct Message could I? Blasphemy!

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  6. I’m so easily distracted by shiny things on the internet that for NaNo I decided to try an experiment. I bought a refurbed netbook for next to nothing and loaded it up with Mac OS X. The only programs on it are iTunes (with only songs I like), Word, and my dictionary. I got rid of my web browser and everything that could be a distraction. Then I loaded a program that disables my Wi-Fi for certain periods of time. The only thing I can do with that computer is write. My productivity has really gone through the roof.

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  7. Oh, thank you for the picture of Bayleigh–now I can avoid my class poem deadline. *starry eyed gaze of a facebooker*

    ~Leni

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  8. There is a program called “Freedom” that is shareware and which disables any of your internet-tied programs for a period of time you dictate. So, for two hours, you cannot get email, surf the web, tweet, Facebook, or what-have-you.

    The only way to get around it once it is turned on is to reboot your computer, which is a big ol pain in the rear.

    It’s a swell program. For those of us who Just. Can’t. Say. No.

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  9. The only way I can limit distractions is by making sure I have absolutely NO internet connection. If I do, I spend way too much time watching videos on YouTube.

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  10. I have to go somewhere else. Someplace that doesn’t have wifi. Because if it’s there, simply pressing that button on my laptop isn’t going to cut it. I was actually disappointed when I walked into my bookstore coffee shop the other day and saw those little tent cards on the tables that said “We have FREE WIFI now!!”

    I’m going to check out that “Freedom” program, though. It will save me a drive across town to the library.

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  11. I take a netbook and go to a nearby park. It has a wooded area with an out of the way bench. It’s my bench.

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  12. I’m reading this lovely blog because I have a few minutes while my worthless pile of machinery that claims to be a computer implodes, reboots and tries to compute once again (I’m on the mini laptop).

    So I have a few minutes to check my Google Reader. Time well spent and keeps me from throwing said machine out the window.

    Me thinks I’ll ask Santa for a new computer.

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  13. I have to leave my flat and write by hand for a while. If I’m anywhere near a computer, I’ll start having “one last game of Bejewelled” on Facebook, or discussing how useful fireworks would be as weapons during a zombie apocalypse on MSN. If I write by hand, it forces me to actually WRITE…until I start to doodle…

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  14. . . . silence is golden . . . scribbling/jotting down in longhand or shorthand in a sun filled room AWAY from the computer seems to work.

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  15. Did you see this article by Peggy Orenstein from the Sunday NYTimes magazine, likening her efforts to go offline to Odysseus having to lash himself to the mast to escape the Sirens.

    Good stuff. And I identify all too fully.

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  16. Thanks for the mention! But did you just SERIOUSLY introduce me to the cutest puppy of the day???? There goes my morning looking through the archives. Dang it!

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  17. I have to turn wifi off when I’m really working. I used to have to do that in the corporate world, too. I’d shut down outlook and my IM. Another thing I’ve been doing is using my desktop for writing/editing, and my netbook for internet stuff, so I know I’m writing if I sit down at the desktop.

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  18. I’m very focused when I work and I just can’t put off a research question until later – I’m way too obsessive, so I go back and forth between my ms and the internet to find whatever information I need for my novel. I can Google like nobody’s business. I’m not tempted at all by email or anything extraneous when writing so I’m lucky that way.

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  19. I use Mac Freedom, which allows me to use the computer but not the Internet, and a stopwatch widget, which keeps track of exactly how long I’ve been writing.

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  20. I have an internet “ritual” during which I clear all of my email, check twitter, and glance at the blueboards. Once I do that, I can settle into my writing undistracted.

    I do, however, have to keep an internet window open to my email…

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  21. The only thing that must must must get turned off is the tv. Hubby will be hacking away at his own laptop with any show he just so happens to find blaring on the tube just feet aaway. He says it helps him think. And since he pulls a 4.0 in school and is coveted by anyone who’s ever had a problem with a machine, who am I to argue with his genius?

    But when I get in my writing mode I like silence around me.

    I also do ‘the ritual’ of checking and answering email, going through all the notes posted to me on fb, and seeing how many comments I received on my latest blog.

    Once that is done I am easily plunged into my latest novel, and can spend hours creating more for the world within its proverbial pages. I guess it helps to know that something has been accomplished for me to be able to ‘play’ the rest of the day, even if it was just to clear the virtual mailboxes.

    Yes. Technology has brought us some fun toys. I will remember that without this laptop, I would not have four wonderful novels. Typing is a much more productive way to explore new places than pen and paper. For me anyway.

    Thank you for this post. Funny how I never saw the ‘ritual’ before it was pointed out. Precious glimpses… thank you, too, Larissa. And my email also stays open all day.

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  22. Having been one of the first children in the country diagnosed with bonafide attention deficit in 1969 (I have to use a clapping and shouting technique I’ve developed just to get my own attention enough to make dinner), my fight against distraction has not only been grueling; it’s been downright painful.

    In order to write I have to go straight to a coffee shop (the white noise keeps me focused) with a laptop that only has Word function. Period.

    Writing at home for me is futile. I don’t even attempt it anymore.

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  23. I also have the morning ritual of checkig my various email accounts and fav. blogs – but then I turn it OFF, turn on some music and get to work. If I don’t, then 2:15 rolls around awfully quick and I have to pick up my son from school – and my work day is pretty much finished. I like the idea of tying myself to the chair until I reach my word count for the day – it would certainly keep me from running to the kitchen for a non-virtual cookie every so often…. Which reminds me, I still have one chocolate-peppermint JoeJoe left (from Trader Joe’s). I’d better get writing so I can eat it!

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  24. I’m glad I procrastinated over here because that Freedom program sounds right up my alley!

    I usually have to go somewhere that doesn’t have internet access. That used to be my backyard until my tech-savvy husband got us wi-fi.

    I also had a pretty good stint this summer of putting aside one day a week for *no* computer at all. I wouldn’t even turn it on for 24 hours, and instead I’d work by hand on character development, plot, or structure. This post reminded me about how productive and freeing that time was. Time to start it up again!

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  25. . . . good rule of thumb (for the most part) . . . unplug for the weekend!

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  26. I treat my netbook like a typewriter while I work creatively. If I need to fact check I simply place a key “word” like ‘xxx’ to search on and return to it during re-writes. People say writing is lonely. Not if you love your characters enough to want to spend the day with them… and no one else.

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