Writing is time consuming.
It takes incredible amounts of focus, creativity, drive, and time.
In a world that demands we're connected digitally to it at every second, it can be hard to find that oasis of time and space that John Cleese talked so brilliantly about. This connection is a problem I have personally as a writer and often it leads to a lack of productivity and often some manner of insomnia. Clearly, I'm still productive, though, and I've had to come up with ways to fight digital distractions.
Firstly, I often write in my notebook. Lately, I've been quite attracted to the small Moleskine notebooks (particularly the Star Wars ones) and I fill one up every month or two (sometimes three, depending on the projects I'm working on.) It helps to leave my phone in my pocket and not have it anywhere in sight and to be working in the notebook somewhere free of distractions.
As for my phone, mine is virtually always on silent. I don't get any beeps or whistles when a new message or notification comes in. I check the damn thing often enough without it telling me that I should be checking it more. It might frustrate people trying to get a hold of me, but I'll get a text message eventually. Sadly, it's probably faster to get ahold of me via email or twitter, which is a problem on its own.
Another tool I use to keep myself focused is my typewriter. I know it might sound quaint or retro to work on a typewriter, but a typewriter doesn't have an internet connection. There's something so satisfying about hearing the clack-clack-clack of keys engaging hammers and it pressing ink right onto the paper. And there's something invigorating about watching your pile of paper grow into a larger stack. The point where it feels book length in that tangible form is incredible. I first-drafted my first novel on a couple of different typewriters. Since this piece is about eliminating distractions, it's obvious to assume that's a reason I did it, but there's another big one, too.
Once I finish drafting a piece on a typewriter, it needs to be transcribed into the computer. Since I have to reevaluate every single word as it goes into my word processer, it's very easy to do a first, quick revision on the fly. By the time it's made it into the computer it's already been plotted with ink and paper, typed up on the typewriter, and revised once into the computer. Adding that extra, analog step, enhances the quality of the work if you do it right.
But what about using the computer? This is where I seem to get the most hung up and I'm going to be looking for your suggestions. Sometimes, when I'm typing on the computer, I'm doing it because I'm doing research at the same time that I need to toggle back to. But I love the history books and find myself sucked into them, reading far more than I ever wanted to know and that leads me from topic to topic, far beyond the needs of my story.
Do I shut the internet off? Do I just accept the fact that the internet is a distraction? Do I really need to tab over to facebook and twitter?
It's a tricky question and we all need to find our own balancing act for it.
The first step is being aware of it, though, and for some reason I'm acutely aware of it today. I just feel like taking an internet vacation for a while...
...but maybe that's a little drastic.
I'll see how I'm feeling tomorrow.
And I'm sure I'll post about it on facebook.