The internet has seriously changed the writing game and most of it is for the better. I can’t even image trying to write a book without Google (actually, I can and researching is painful). It’s also been an awesome way connect with other writers (like all of you!). But I think we all know it has it’s downsides too. Unplugging and taking time offline and away from your phone isn’t a new idea, but here are four reasons why I would argue that it’s particularly important for writers.
1) Too much input interferes with output
A friend said this to me once and she’s right. All that input from social media/news/everything else makes it harder to figure out what YOU think about an experience, situation, or the world in general, which means it’s hard to generate creative output that’s uniquely your own. Two massive elements to writing are your voice and your perspective. That’s the basis of every art form. The world keeps changing and you keep growing. Which means how you think about the world is going to consistently evolve. It’s hard to constantly develop and write your own thoughts if you spend most of your time taking in other people’s ideas. Give yourself the time and space to develop your own thinking.
2) Get away from distraction/time suck
Let’s face it. The internet can be a wealth of information. It can also be a massive distraction. You jump online to look up that ONE thing and four hours later you’ve watched more pointless YouTube videos than you care to admit and spent too long scrolling Twitter. Obviously, I speak from experience. Sometimes mindless internet browsing can lead you to some cool places, but if you’re losing writing time, it’s a problem. Maybe you can’t log off for too long (for one reason or another) but if you find that you’re losing a ridiculous amount of production time to the internet, a weekend offline can really help. Focus solely on your project, read a book, or do any other offline activity. It feels like checking our phones and the internet has become a default setting for a lot of us. Spending extended time away from technology can go a long way in breaking that habit, which can make it easier to keep from getting distracted.
3) Refuel your creativity
If you’re not online, there are so many other things you could be doing to refuel your creativity. Read, catch a movie or TV show (without checking your phone or paying attention to two screens at once), spend time outside, visit with family/friends, or do whatever offline activity that helps stimulate your creativity. Really take in those experiences. These are the things we write about. And if you find yourself early to an event, don’t pull out your phone to kill time. Look around and make it a point to notice something. Think about what makes the fighting siblings in the corner so relatable or why the “lonely” person at the table by herself looks anything but lonely. When you unplug like this, you start to pay more attention to the world and to your own thoughts. All of that can be a serious boost to your creativity.
4) Get away from demands
It’s hard to focus on your work when people keep asking you for things–even if those ‘things’ are just a response. In the real world, we can close a door to keep these requests out. But the internet and technology have made us all more accessible. In most cases, this is good. It’s nice that we don’t have to wait a week for a letter to reach its destination, be read, and receive a response. But the downside is, there is always a door open for people to reach us. If you keep checking your phone or the internet and seeing texts/emails/social media post that requires an answer or attention, it makes it really difficult to get some work done. In the past, I would constantly find myself putting my work aside to tend to these messages. Unplugging, silencing my phone, and walking away from online messages for a period of time (sometimes just a few hours, sometimes for an entire week) has been really great for my productivity and general sanity. I completely recommend it.
Final thought: I’ve found it really helpful to take regular breaks from social media–even if I don’t break from the world entirely I like to shoot for at least one day a week, and a few times a year I’ll take an entire week away. When I come back from my breaks I notice I’m more balanced and more focused on my work. If you give it a try, let me know if you notice any difference!
That’s all I’ve got for this one!
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Now it’s your turn: Do you unplug? If you do, what’s your strategy? If you don’t, what’s makes it hard for you to do? Let me know in the comments! You can also let me know what you’d like to see covered more in the future.