My family always goes camping over the 4th of July weekend. The further away from humanity we can get, the better. But usually, we still have some access to the world.
Not this weekend.
After driving over fifty miles on a dirt road into a remote western mountain range, we were completely cut off from everyone and everything. At first, I had a bit of a panic until I began to realize the extent of my addiction to technology.
It took an entire afternoon and evening for me to quit glancing at my phone every few minutes. I had some actual anxiety over not being able to check it. But what do I check? Email? Facebook? Nothing that has life or death in the balance.
I finally put my phone in the truck.
After two days, I was enjoying my technology break, and as I spent Sunday afternoon writing while my husband went fishing, I began to realize the benefits.
Three Reasons to Unplug
1) No Social Media Distractions
Often when I get on my computer to write, my first stop is a quick check-in on Facebook or Twitter which can end up lasting twenty to thirty minutes, time that I could spend writing.
I can’t think of anything I’ve ever found on social media that inspired my writing in an amazing way. Instead, I get sucked into watching random videos and reading articles that have nothing to do with whatever story I’m working on.
But this weekend, without the distraction of social media, I got right into my story…and stayed there.
2) No research rabbit holes
As I worked on reviewing the plot to my murder mystery, I noted a few details that I want to research further. Normally, when I have internet access, I would have stopped right there to start researching. But without internet I couldn’t.
Researching is like going into a maze-like rabbit hole. Sometimes I can find the answer in a few minutes, other times it takes forty five and then getting back into my story takes another ten minutes.
Instead of researching, I wrote all of my questions on a note card, and I can have a dedicated research session to answer them all at one time which makes so much more sense.
This past spring, I went to a conference on the neuroscience of learning. The presenter gave us a copy of his book, The New Science of Learning. One of the most interesting sections of the book was on multi-tasking. He writes, “research demonstrates that individuals who shift tasks make 50% more errors and spend at least 50% more time on both tasks (Medina, 2008). That means it takes longer to do a worse job” (79).
I had never realized how much stopping to research, check social media or email made me lose focus, and actually makes me do a worse job.
The final benefit of going off the grid was another surprise, the quiet. I’m usually listening to podcasts, books, or music while I take walks or even do chores. A family member might have the TV on in the background while I try to write.
This weekend, the loudest sounds were birds singing.
What happened in the quiet? I solved a major plot dilemma that I’d been having and even came up with some new ideas to refine one of the main characters.
I’m not sure that would have happened in my usually busy, noisy life.
While I realize that I can’t go off into the wild western wilderness every week to have focused time to write and create, I can and will recreate those conditions. It’ll just take a bit of focus to:
- Limit when and how often I check social media, texts, and emails. I’ll probably need to keep my phone in another room and close any and all browser windows to achieve this goal.
- Take notes for research and then designate a time for research.
- Allow for stillness and quiet to let my mind create.
Have you ever gone off the grid or limited phone/internet time in order to create? Did it help you write? We’d love to hear your story and thoughts in the comments below.