Thursday, December 11, 2014

Just Hit “Disconnect”

When I cruised Facebook during breakfast yesterday…like a lot of writers I dine at my desk, I saw a Kickstarter announcement about an uber-portable laptop-computer-thingie to which lots of folks had already ponied up their money. Supposed to be a boon for writers because they can type on it without the distraction of the Internet…Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and WhatNot…you just can’t connect. Looks like a small typewriter, really, with a tiny screen. Like these portable units my news bureau used “back in the day,” where you would carry them with you, type up your story, and then you had to connect them to a phone to transmit it all back to the newspaper office. Yeah, that was before e-mail.

Anyway, with this new uber-portable invention that more than a few writers are excited about, you are able to type and type and type because you aren’t able to access the Internet and its many distractions—though you can upload your work to the Cloud so you won’t lose it.

Great, eh?

You can buy in for less than $400, although you can spend more than $1,000 for fancier models. Hmmm …. $400 buys a lot of tea, dog toys, books, and the like. Guess you can tell I’m not gonna buy in on this magnificent writer’s tool. $400 would also buy you a very nice new laptop that can access the Internet and all its marvelous distractions.

Or you could put your $400 in the bank for a rainy day.

Maybe what these buyers need—more than this portable laptop-computer-thingie—is focus, discipline, and determination. Things that no amount of money can buy. Those things you have to find and forge.

Really, if you want to write, just sit down and write.

I’ve had folks in seminars ask how I avoid losing too much time to the Internet. I tell them, easy. Generally, I allow myself a little time in the morning to “mess around” with the Internet while I eat breakfast—and I’m an early riser. My work day starts at 8 a.m….WORK, writing, editing, proofing. So my fun time has to be out of the way by then. I take a mid-morning break to get up from the desk, toss some tennis balls, check e-mail, then I’m back at WORK. A mid-afternoon stretch…more tennis balls are thrown, maybe laundry is thrown into the machine. Then WORK. If I have to do some research, I limit myself to one half hour. That’s it. No more, keeps me from randomly surfing. And generally I check e-mail or Facebook before I shut the computer down at the end of the day.

I found my focus, discipline, and determination. And they didn’t cost $400.

I actually disconnect from the Internet when I work. It’s real easy to do. You just go to your computer settings, connections, and hit “disconnect.” In fact, I’m gonna do just that after I post this blog.

Sometimes I disconnect from the Internet for two or three days at a time…frustrating some of my friends who have e-mailed me and wonder why I haven’t replied.

“But how do you limit yourself like that?” someone invariably asks at a seminar.

“I have to. Disconnect. Move the arrow over the disconnect square and hit ‘enter,’ and it turns off the Internet.”

If I want to remain a full-time writer/editor, I have no choice. 

Writing and editing full time is a privilege. Not a lot of people are so blessed with this vocation, and I’m not going to let YouTube screw it up.

I don’t need the $400 computer-thingie. I just need to “disconnect.”

If you let yourself be distracted by the Internet, you really don’t want to write…you want to do anything else but write.

If you buy this computer-thingie, and I am not advocating that you don’t, just realize that it’s not going to make you a writer. You have to make you a writer. A machine can’t do it for you.

You have to wrestle with whatever demons lure you to Facebook or on-line games and beat them to a bloody pulp. You have to confront whatever force is preventing you from hitting the “disconnect” button.

I guess I really am mystified why some of my fellows think this computer-thingie is a good idea. I’m not begrudging its creators. More power to them. They’re clever, and they’re selling to some folks who aren’t able to unplug from the Internet on their own. 

And, who knows, maybe the device is wonderful, the battery life is amazing and is a serious plus in that regard. I think a travel writer could benefit from it, or someone who wants to type in the middle of nowhere with no power outlet in sight. If I was sailing off on some glorious houseboat, I’d want one.

But I really like a nice big screen.

I’m wondering what these buyers will do when they get their marvelous laptop-computer-thingie delivered in 2015 or 2016? Will they open it and think: “Now’s my turn to crank out that bestseller.”

If there’s no magic in the machine, it won’t make you a better writer. It won’t make you a more disciplined writer. In fact, it won’t make you a writer at all. I wonder if it will instead make you a $400 poorer soul who will step away from this new marvel and return a laptop that beckons with distractions. Oh look…another YouTube talking cat video.

Because if you can’t step away from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, games, and WhatNot now, this machine isn’t going to take that step for you. This machine is just one more distraction.

If you’re gonna write, just write. 

Now, I'm gonna go hit 'disconnect' and get back to my book.

Thanks for reading my rant.

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