Saturday, June 26, 2010

Writin' it "Old School"

We've been telling stories since we learned how to talk, and writing them since we could scratch meaningful symbols into the sand. Well, maybe you've never written a love letter in the sand (Ha! Back in the Day Skid Row reference), but when I say "we", I mean the big "We"--the Human "Us".

This communication has been around for quite a while, but sometimes, especially when we find ourselves "blocked" we feel we don't have a handle on it. You know, we can send a man to the moon (or at least space, if you are one of those who believes that story is fiction), but we can't assemble the correct technology to get our novels from point A to point B without tearing our collective hairs out.

What is the problem? We  have the best and fastest computers, we've  bookmarked links to hundreds of helpful writer's sites, we've even purchased the best novel-screenplay-poetry-essay building software available. We ask all the best questions in writer's chatrooms, and listen to webinars certain to make us a "Best-Selling Authors". And even with all this help, our work barely crawls into the light, still weary and malnourished. With such hi-tech abundance, how could our writing be falling short?

The Problem: Hi-Tech Clutter
Your writing mind has been polluted by excess and distraction. Learning to focus has always been a challenge for the writer, but never before has a writer been expected to participate in the very things that disrupt the writing process, at least, not to this extreme.

Writers can lose themselves in stacks of research without leaving their desks. This wouldn't be so bad, except when the research is initiated mid-paragraph. Will the original thought still be there when you return from your "trip around the world in 50 clicks"? Maybe not. Your Facebook news feed is full of helpful links to help you write. Maybe there will still be time to write once you've read them all. Even outside of the World Wide Web, your grammar check keeps underlying your short, purposefully fragmented (to show tension) sentences, and you have to keep consoling it: yes, it's ok to ignore, just this once, I promise.

Excuse Editor Tip: Unplug

If closing your Email and Web windows is not enough, maybe you need to climb out an actual window with a notebook and pen and get back to basics. That includes leaving your usual writing space, and your usual distractions. Sure it is kinda cute when your cat jumps up on your keyboard. The first time. If you step away from your grammar/spell checker, that's two less editors you have to deal with (if you are already fighting your own inner editor, they just create extra noise). Besides, that little Grammarian in the Machine doesn't always act on common sense. (During a recent edit, I was encouraged to change the question, "What will the rent be" to "What will the rent are".) Better to go with your creative gut, especially for first drafts. For first edits, having a printout to mark up can bring you more in touch with your work than looking at it on a screen.

A vacation away from flat world of technology will rejuvenate you. It will train you to focus on just the writing, since you had spent time with nothing but your writing before you. Later, when you start to get linked, chatted, tweeted, and you-tubed to death--you can close your eyes and bring yourself back to a simpler time, when it was just you and your notebook. This will give you the strength to close all of those windows letting in problematic drafts, and savor the cleansing breeze of the One project you've chosen for right now.

Of course, I'm not saying that all technology is bad, but just that we need to take a look at, and step back now and then to see how it may be holding us back as writers. We can find and send information in matter of seconds, but is that a way to consume all of our learning and sharing? It's like the difference between Fast Food and a patiently, thoughtfully prepared home-cooked meal: the former satisfies you for the time being, but if you don't allow yourself the latter, your nourishment is lacking.

This week, "unplug" and nourish your creativity with a visit to nature, whether it is a park bench for a few paragraphs, or a long hike to inspire you later. Notice how different your writing feels away from the square boxes...

Another time to Turn Off: before you Turn In: For the Healthy Writer: The Key to Falling Asleep Faster
Click, Click, Click. It's not just changing writers: The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains
Learn Julia Cameron's basic tools. From The Artist's Way.


  1. It's uncanny how this post correlates so perfectly with what I already perceived has been my problem of late. The web presents so many distractions, but it's worth it, I think, for the ease of research it provides. The real discipline lies with me--not always my best trait. LOL.

    I love this blog and I either learn something new with each visit, or receive validation for something I've only just figured out.


  2. Thanks for stopping by, Steph. The irony of this: as soon as I posted this I headed over to hootsuite and socialooomph sites to figure out how to spend less time posting to my FB and Twitter-- and have spent about an hour messing with it!

  3. I'm totally with you on this, Tina--and I'm a big fan of Julia Cameron. Thanks for following my blog.

  4. There have always been distractions; today we call it displacement activity and plug into it with too much ease. Information overload is touted as today's greatest tech-ill. But you're right; the real problem is the proliferation of distracting methods of communication (most of which are used for the banal, trite and trivial)and all of which make you feel either guilty for not partaking or antediluvian for not understanding.
    Older than you, I recall bashing out my first efforts on a manual typewriter and screwing up page after page when a typo spoiled the text. We can embrace the time-saving elements of technology and ignore the time wasters; but it's got to be our decision. Really, the basic question we need to ask ourselves, I suppose, is: what do I want to do with my time?

  5. Wow, this is such great advice. I'm a little overwhelmed with all the information and techie stuff surrounding me. I need to just unplug!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...