Skip to main content

Disconnecting

As writers, we need to get into our heads and do lots of thinking and lots of soul searching. Living in a society where advertisers, our friends and families, and the entire Internet are competing for our attention, that kind of quiet thought might be hard to come by.

When I was in Paris, I had limited Internet access, no phone access, and nothing more on my agenda than to learn.

While I was there, I'd spend my mornings writing on a new novel. I got almost 20k words done while I was there, over three weeks, that averages out to about 1,000 words a day. After we'd head out for the day, I'd keep my moleskin with me and write as often as a thought struck me (you know, instead of tweeting or facebooking). In that notebook, I wrote two short stories, and I put about 20k words down full of observations and ideas.

It was refreshing and it was refueling.

I wasn't so concerned about the rest of the world, I could spend my time thinking about capturing photographs of things that spoke to me, wondering about the world I was in, and imagining what scenarios and situations the characters in my head could get into in these new locales I was learning about.

I was inspired. 

And as soon as I got home, I felt once again crushed by that overload of information that is the Internet, the oppressive onslaught of advertisers, publicity people, friends, family, etc. etc. etc.

After seeing a different sort of balance, I'm instituting a few rules for myself to help me tap back into the quiet of my mind so I can ponder things in order to be a better creative person and a better storyteller.

Rule #1: I don't answer my phone (unless you're one of two or three very select people) anytime outside of regular business hours. People who aren't my most beloved loved ones or important collaborators don't get me anytime outside of 9-5, Monday through Friday. My weekends are mine, my mornings and evenings are mine. Just because you know I have a phone, doesn't mean I'm going to use it. I'll respond when it's appropriate for me.

Rule #2: The same goes for email. Unless it's a very special case, I won't respond to your email unless it's during business hours, and never immediately. The minimum amount of time before receiving an email and me sending a response is fifteen minutes. It could take a few days. I'm pulling myself out of the world of instant communication.

Rule #3: Social media notifications have been turned off. Twitter and Facebook no longer send me text messages, push notifications, emails, nothing. If I happen to be on the service and see an interaction, great. If not, I've missed nothing.

Rule #4: Since it takes time for me to respond to you, I'll have patience and expect that it will take you time to respond as well. I won't hound you, send you repeated follow-up emails day after day, spam call your phone, or hit you relentlessly. I'm trying to change a culture here for myself, and it applies to how I treat you.

Rule #5: I hereby give myself permission to refuel my brain. To read more books, visit more museums, view more art. 

Rule #6: I hereby refuse to waste time trolling the same four sites on the Internet forty times a day, waiting for an update as though I need to be instantly in the know. The most important thing for me to be doing is picking away at my writing, even if it's just a single line.

I've started with those and I'm working on it. It's hard, especially after learning to react in this fashion over the last ten years, and I may slip now and again, but it's a good start.

If I feel like I need to take further drastic actions to disconnect and enable me to focus on things that are more important, like reading, writing, time spent with my kids, relaxation, and learning.

Feel free to let me know what strategies you use to disconnect.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Anatomy of an Opening: The End of the Affair

Instead of breaking down a scene from a movie, this time we'll break down the opening of a book. (Previously, I've done scenes from City Lights, Citizen Kane, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.  I've also broken down the opening to Starship Troopers.

Graham Greene's The End of the Affair is absolutely one of my favorite books. The writing is lyrical and story heart-wrenching and beautiful. Greene's style of writing is such that he always has me gripped, whether it's the beginning of the book or the end. And he shows you so much about the character in his opening lines.

So, here are the first two paragraphs from the book:
A story has no beginning or end: arbitrarily one chooses that moment of experience from which to look back or from which, to look ahead. I say 'one chooses' with the inaccurate pride of a professional writer who - when he has been seriously noted at all - has been praised for his technical ability, but d…

50+ Rules and Tips About Writing I've Collected Over the Years

I have twenty or thirty notebooks and journals filled up with snippets about writing, my plans for stories, bits of dialogue, interesting ideas, plotlines, scraps of short stories, and a dozen other things. I carry one with me at all times and it takes me a couple of months to fill one up.

One of the things I've kept in one of my notebooks was a collection of writing tips and rules that I've collected over the years in my travels. From teachers, from books, from wherever. Most of my career has been spent screenwriting, so a lot of these are most applicable to that, but I wanted to present them so they might be of use to you as well.

I've never stopped collecting these over the years and I never will.

To start the list are Kurt Vonnegut's eight rules of writing. They are the first in my notebook and, I think, the most useful. I'll add a star to those I think are applicable most to screenwriting. Some of these aren't applicable to everyone in every situation, but…

Anatomy of a Scene - City Lights

We're going to break down another scene this week, and it's one of my favorites in cinema history. It comes from the ending of City Lights by Charlie Chaplin, which I think is the greatest romantic comedy ever made. 
It's a touching film from 1931 and I would make it mandatory viewing for anyone who wants to learn to tell a story.
The scene we're going to be breaking down comes from the very end of the film, so if you haven't seen it, I don't want to spoil it for you. Go watch the film. You can rent it for $3.99 in HD on Amazon or for free on Hulu with a free trial or plus subscription. You should just buy the Blu-ray, though. You're going to want to revisit it.
For those of you familiar with the movie, or for those of you who are going to ignore my pleas to watch it and go ahead with this post anyway, I'm going to set this clip up a bit before you watch it.
City Lights tells the story of Chaplin's Tramp and how he falls in love with a blind flower …