The last time I took a typing test, I discovered I can type 69 words per minute, many thanks to my sophomore typing class, years of Googling at the speed of light and, oh yeah, writing long works of fiction. From the minute I learned to type with all of my fingers (no chicken-pecking here…except when I have a baby in one arm, of course), I found writing anything by hand an act of torture. Penning my name on one of those bubble test sheets was flat-out insulting. Why waste all that time and risk a permanent indentation in my middle finger? But this week, at writing time, I packed away the laptop and pulled out my dear old pen. Here’s why…
As you no doubt have noticed, I’ve been lacking in the inspiration department for a while. I’ve tried new ideas, I’ve tried forcing myself to write. Nothing seemed to work. It was killing me. Every time I pulled out my Word document, I felt my brain and my muse shut down. Was it my story or was it me? Or, was it my laptop?
Every writer knows that the internet is the enemy of writing. How easy and criminally seductive the little Pokemon ball is (I use Chrome) when I’m stumped for ideas. Just one more blog to read, just one more Tweet. But even writers who turn off their internet can’t seem to find peace from it and a blog post last week on Writer Unboxed shed a little light on a potential reason why.
In The Internet, Your Brain, Your Writerly Self, Therese Walsh broached the topic of an article by Nicholas Carr called, ‘The Shallows’: This Is Your Brain Online. The article discussed how after so much time spent online, our brains develop to become more capable of multi-tasking and switching gears quickly. We process information faster, scan articles quicker and grow used to thinking at such a rapid pace, we become unable to slow down and immerse ourselves in deep, solitary concentration–the most conducive environment for allowing creative thoughts to thrive.
How do we turn off the Internet brain? As many writers have proven, turning off the Internet alone isn’t enough.
Have you ever noticed how electronics hum? Even when the sound is turned off, you can hear them working. Close your laptop and set it across the room and I’ll bet you can still hear the fan sucking air. I think it’s possible that our minds associate those sounds and our bodies associate the energy coming off the machine with rapid thought patterns. That even if we’re not actually working on the machine, our bodies still sense its presence and mentally prepares us to work on its terms.
I went out and bought a new notebook immediately.
There’s something so organic to going back to the basics of a pen and paper. No noise, no distractions. When I get stuck in the middle of a scene, instead of clicking over to check my Netflix queue, I lean back in my chair and let my mind wander. You remember daydreaming, right? You now, the thing that started this silly “writing” idea. Without the electronics zapping the creative energy from the room, I find myself writing more than 100 words at a time but 300, 500 and 700. And you know what–if I get a sudden bit of inspiration, I don’t have to wait for my paper to boot up. My notebook fits in my purse and goes everywhere with me. And I can even do it one-handed…baby and all.
Most of all, I feel like returning to the roots of writing has taken me back to my teenage years when I used to lock myself in my room and write for hours, when I had all the time in the world to write…before that sophomore typing class.
Deciding to put my laptop away for a while is the best decision I’ve made for my writing in a long time. I’m sure that by the time NaNoWriMo comes back around we’ll be pals again (because writing 1,167 words every day by hand is just insane!) but right now, it’s giving me the freedom I’ve been so craving. Freedom from the humming, freedom from the surfing, freedom from the outlet and freedom from the taunting black cursor. I’ve returned to a place of deep, solitary concentration and my creativity is thriving.