Trying to Focus? DO NOT Turn Off Your Internet While You Write

Consult any writing advice website or book, and you’ll likely encounter one particular tip.

I’ve preached it myself. Margaret Atwood advises it, Stephen Pressfield has advised it, Zadie Smith advises it (note how I slot myself into that list of awesome writers you should totally listen to!)

To free yourself from the mind-altering distraction behemoth that is the internet, turn it off while you write.

focus for writers

There’s also the variations on the same theme…

There are apps that block your connection, apps that block specific websites.

Some writers advise only writing on computers that can’t go online.

 

The core of the advice is sound…

Don’t go online while you’re writing.

Don’t check anything, don’t research anything, don’t log your #amwriting tweets while you are actually writing.

However, there’s a fundamental flaw.

Turning off the internet while you write is meant to remove the distraction. Switch of your wifi and you’re unable to connect, right?

Yes, but….

You can always, quite easily turn your connection back on.

You can disable your blocking apps.

Adding that extra step makes it a little less likely you’ll give into temptation and break your focus by going online, but it still does nothing to address the real problem.

Adding those extra steps just adds another layer of something to be tempted by – the temptation to switch it all back on. Again, the real problem continues.

The real problem, the reason so many writers get distracted by the internet is those writers have not learned to work with the distraction.

If you want to go online, you will. If you’re still conditioned to be online every second minute, you will be.

So, what’s to be done?

Work with the distraction.

Work despite the distraction.

Do not give in to the distraction.

And how do we learn to do this?

DO NOT TURN OFF THE INTERNET!

We don’t need to learn to turn off the internet, we need to learn to write without going online whether we’re connected or not.

It’s not the internet’s fault you keep getting distracted by the very temptation to get online. It’s your brain’s fault.

By turning off the internet, we’re not doing anything to conquer that part of our brain that thinks we need to go online in the middle of a writing session.

When you sit down to write, don’t turn off the internet. Instead turn off that part of your brain that thinks you need to be online.

It’s a habit that can absolutely be learned.

Don't turn off the internet. Instead, learn to write in the face of distraction. #writerslifeClick To Tweet

It takes practice, and it’s hard work, but if you truly want to conquer that distraction machine, this is the only way to do it.

How to Properly Conquer the Distraction of the Internet

Research First

Have everything you need to write ready before you start so you don’t need to open a browser.

Make Notes to Research Later

If you encounter a fact or some such that needs checking, make a note to do it later and keep writing.

Use a Mantra

“It’s not time for internet, it’s time for writing.” Repeat it to yourself, over and over and over.

Acknowledge the Distraction

When you feel the urge to get online for whatever reason, stop and acknowledge it. Think about why you felt that urge. I often get the urge to check social media mid-writing when I’m in a tricky part of the project. It’s a devilish trick of the brain! Sit with the urge for just a few moments (without giving into it), and it will pass.

Just Don’t Do It

Simple. Just don’t. Don’t. It takes a certain amount of internal fortitude, but you can do it. Just don’t go online.

It’s hard. The more internet dependent you are, the harder it will be. Hard doesn’t need to mean bad, however. You can learn to work alongside the distraction and get so good at it that the internet simply ceases to be a distraction.

That’s when the real power happens. Own it.

Kate Krake
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Kate Krake

Kate Krake writes speculative fiction and non-fiction. She is the author of the urban fantasy series Guessing Tales. Kate blogs about popular culture, health, wellness and creative writing. She lives in Brisbane, Australia with her husband, daughter and two beagles. Find out more on www.katekrake.com.
Kate Krake
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