As writers, we are often advised to unplug ourselves – meaning: controlling the distractions that technology in particular offers us.
Today’s post will briefly discuss the big Unplug, which for me also involves the Unplugged Weekend, and a controversial subject of a writer’s retreat where there’s no writing done. [Chuckles wickedly]
The Noise, The Unplug
We just missed (in March) the National Day of Unplugging, created by the Reboot network. It was a made-up holiday (which are the best) but had an important message:
“We increasingly miss out on the important moments of our lives as we pass the hours with our noses buried in our iPhones and BlackBerry’s, chronicling our every move through Facebook and Twitter and shielding ourselves from the outside world with the bubble of “silence” that our earphones create”.
Unplugging from Distractions
A core habit of the successful writer is the control of distractions and interruptions from external forces. For many, this habit centers around setting out a space for writing, and perhaps shutting the door from interruptions.
But of course, nowadays there can be more distractions on our computer monitor than coming from outside real life. Technology now provides us with the internet, and distractions such as blogs, communities, chat, messaging, email, social networking like Facebook or Twitter, and contrarily, many are important for us as writers in communicating with our readers and fellow writers, and in building an author “platform.”
The advice is in, however. Countless writers tell us to unplug or switch off all these web-based distractions, even turn off our phones when it comes time for our writing.
But I personally don’t do it. So I’m can’t offer contradictory thoughts to you here, over switching off for writing. Instead, I’ll simply say that I do manage my own writing time and flow, by allowing myself breaks where I do have a little time to check emails etc. I also have a routine where I get rid of emails and some other tasks first thing in the morning, over a cup of tea, and then get on with my writing. And I don’t have that many phone calls.
For those with an addiction to the internet, there is technology to help :
- Prewrite and schedule your Facebook and Twitter content with tools like Hootsuite, Social Oomph, or (lately I am in love with) Buffer.
- Prewrite and schedule your blog posts – most blogging platforms such as Blogger and WordPress offer this facility in-house.
- Block out times when you do/don’t allow yourself onto sites such as Facebook etc, if you insist on having your browser open during writing sessions –
- Most writing programs (such as Scrivener) now offer full-screen or distraction-free mode, where the rest of your desktop vanishes behind your one writing screen.
- For blog reading, many would have previously suggested Google Reader. With 300+ blogs I read, the Google Reader list titles allowed me to read just what looked interesting. Unfortunately, with Google pulling Reader in July, I am trying out feedly as a replacement – it pulls in all the google reader blogs, and has quite a few apps, but is still developing with some of Google Reader’s functionality.
The UnPlugged Weekend
The concept of unplugging for a certain time to rejuvenate ourselves against the grey-noise of society has been steadily growing within the writing community.
- Michael Glaser, who has written for Los Angeles Times and CNET wrote about his quest for more time as he unplugged from his computer in ‘Technology Sabbath’ offers one day to unplug’.
- Janet Aronica wrote in March 2012, ‘Why Bloggers Should Actually Unplug Memorial Day Weekend’ and quotes Maria Shriver’s commencement speech which celebrated “the power of the pause”.
Others talk of our modern day dilemma as writers – we are expected to engage with our readers and communities, but as creatives we also know that from time to time, we need to retreat and just be with our thoughts.
I don’t write on the weekends. This is a relatively flexible schedule – some weekends I do, in fact, write – but only if I feel like doing so, and not to any deadline. But by the majority – I’ve never written on the weekends, and further – I don’t even boot up the computers, or go onto the internet.
For me, weekends are for my family, and for living life. They are, coincidentally, the ideal way to have a retreat from all that noise of the virtual world. Most weekends for me, are unplugged.
The Creative Pause Writer’s Retreat
Edward de Bono, author of ‘Serious Creativity: Using the Power of Lateral Thinking to Create New Idea’‘ may have first coined the phrase Creative Pause. In the book, he describes creative pause as (paraphrased): “a deliberate, self-imposed pause to consider alternative solutions to a problem — even when things are going perfectly fine” and goes on to say “some of the best results come when people stop to think about things that no one else has stopped to think about.” De Bono suggests a creative pause can be as little as 30 seconds.
The meaning has altered further to “the shift from being fully engaged in a creative activity to being passively engaged, or the shift to being disengaged altogether” by people like Cameron Moll who also suggests that a good creative pause can be found simply in the white noise of taking a shower.
We also have the interesting news that nature, and the colour green have both been found to recharge our creativity (see below).
This goes against the whole principle sitting behind a Writer’s Retreat, I know. There, the objective is to take a day, or a weekend, away from everything else, simply to write. These creative pause retreats are the opposite – take the time to not write, but enjoy the thinking and exploration time.
Core Habit: Unplug for the weekend, unplug while you’re writing, seek your creative pauses, do some writing retreats where you actually (shiver) don’t write! take a hike, take some downtime. Or take a shower.
- The de Bono Group
- Take A Hike! Unplugging And Recharging In Nature Boosts Creativity – Huffington Post.
- A green scene sparks our creativity – NBC
- How to Run a D.I.Y. Writers’ Retreat – WOW (The traditional form of the retreat).
This blog post participated in April 2013’s Blogging from A to Z Challenge, along with many other blogs on subjects as diverse as writing, foodie blogs or mummy blogs.
This blog post is part of a themed series or pack on Writer’s Core Habits. I acronym this as WCH or WCHP © . Do a search for these tags, and you will find more in the series.
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