I was without internet for a little over a week. Normally this would have me frustrated and wondering what to do with myself, but I managed to occupy that time in other ways. What I didn’t do very much of–which surprised me–was write.
It was the perfect scenario; an unplugged advantage to my creative process. No promise of distraction. Nothing to stop me from achieving my goal of 1667 words (and beyond) a day for NaNoWriMo. But I found that without internet, I didn’t achieve my daily goal and while I had access, I managed just fine. This was a revelation to me. Upon reflection I realised why.
Being without internet wasn’t an opportunity for me, it was an interruption to my daily routine. Routine was something that was working for me, and thanks to NaNoWriMo I was motivated to give it a red hot go. I was writing in the mornings and evenings, sitting at my laptop. Before the net went down I would check my email, look at a few blogs on writing, check the NaNoWriMo site and what my buddies were up to, then I would write. This five to ten minute ritual was unavailable to me and using my smart phone to do it was tedious and unsatisfying.
I stopped writing in the mornings.
Writing in the evening happened after my three year old went to bed. That process had remained unchanged. I usually wouldn’t go online when it was my daughter’s bedtime, I’d just retreat into the study to write while Daddy read a few stories to her to send her off to sleep. I was now trying to achieve the same word amount in half the time. On a couple of occasions I managed, but there were two 24 hour periods which I skipped entirely.
So when writers tell you to unplug the net and shut out daily life, this is something that very few of us can afford. My advice is this: Use whatever works best for you, but don’t lose sight of the goal. When my net was down, I chose to distract myself with other things. Fruitless, unproductive things, and I told myself I just needed a break. That is a habit I don’t want to return to and I’d promised myself not to invite that attitude back into my writing life. At least when the internet came back up I (mostly) returned to my routine. It was surprisingly hard to claw myself back into it, and it was only an eight day hiatus.
Right now I have 49,912 words under my belt. I need less than a hundred words to ‘win’, but the manuscript has been a largely satisfying achievement. It surprised me with its quality–better than a lot of the stuff I’ve written in the past. And all it took to come into existence was a daily writing ritual.