#atozchallenge U is for Unplugging as a Writer

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

unplug_thumb.jpgA 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.

Sound advice.

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.

Tech Help

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 –
    • LeechBlock (Firefox) and StayFocused (Chrome)are browser plugins which block up to six nominated sites you are allowed to use at certain times of the day.
    • Self-Control (Mac app) or Freedom (PC app) blocks out distracting websites (or internet usage entirely) for a certain time.
  • 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

keep-calm-and-unplug-this-weekend_thumb.pngThe concept of unplugging for a certain time to rejuvenate ourselves against the grey-noise of society has been steadily growing within the writing community.

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.

My Weekends.

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

pause_button-150x150.pngEdward 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.

Further Reading:


AtoZ2013 _thumb

A-to-Z-Core-Habits3-_thumb.jpgThis 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.

No affiliate links are used in these posts.

12 thoughts on “#atozchallenge U is for Unplugging as a Writer

  1. I hadn’t heard of an unplugged weekend, but I totally see the need for it. There are some days where it feels like I’ve spent every waking moment plugged into a screen of some kind. But I tell myself I manage to produce in spite of/because of that connectedness. It might be time for an experiment, though.

  2. It would be hard for me to unplug, since I use Google Drive as my text editor. I find that using it keeps me from using the Internet except for a brief moment now and then to check something, e.g. it helps to check directions between two points that I’m not familiar with, something I had to do just recently.

  3. I’m a new blogger and AZ-er, so April has been a challenge!! try to keep weekends free, but it hasn’t worked that way. I’m looking forward to a quiet unplugged May.

  4. Good post, Hunter and lots of useful links. I touched on similar themes for my O post – On My Own – but yours is much more specific to writing and has some great tips. I like to work in 45min-1hour bursts, have a drink, check my social media then plough on – but it does require self-discipline not to get sucked in to the rabbit hole of the internet!

    Kelly’s Eye – Writing, Music, Life

  5. I am feeling pretty burnt out but your post has given some wonderful ideas on some much-needed tuning out SOON. Thanks 🙂

    1. Mel, I hope so. May for me will also be a month of slowdown. These blog posts have been intense. But soon, to retreat…

  6. Love that comic at the end! So true! I try to get my blogging/internet tasks out of the way in the afternoon and then spend the evening on writing, but too often it doesn’t work out that way. It’s very easy for it to get out of control. That’s part of the reason I’ve purposely avoided Twitter so far. Great post!

  7. This is so true! That comic tells it all so perfectly! Sums up the reasons I don’t get dinner done, laundry washed or anything written. I should take more time to unplug. Wish I had that option for my kids when I need to write =).

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