Monday 2 August 2010


I can often be a somewhat contrary young miss. One minute I'm posting an entry bemoaning the reliance on technology, and the next I'm posting an entry on how my Netbook has boosted my productivity. Having said that, I'm not necessarily changing my mind as I'm fully capable of believing both of those things simultaneously. I believe that both traditional methods and technological advances have their uses, and their place, when it comes to writing. I stand by my statement that I love my Netbook for allowing me to work pretty much anywhere, and for allowing me to increase my output by utilising previously wasted time on tube journeys or at lunchtime. However, I also acknowledge that when I'm at home, I have a horrid tendency to get distracted by Facebook, Twitter, or my ever-expanding blog list. I end up spending hours reading the fiction of others, which is immensely enjoyable, but I really should be working on my own.

As well as writing a weekly Friday flash and revising my first novel, I have two other major projects on the go. One is the Tales from Vertigo City e-book that I've talked about previously, while the other is a collection of my fantasy/horror related flash fictions. This collection will feature expanded versions of nine stories submitted to the #FridayFlash collector, a flash inspired by a Writer's Digest prompt, another random flash written after a night out in London, and two completely exclusive flashes that you won't find anywhere else. If you really want to read them, you'll have to get the e-book!

I've already written one of these exclusive flashes. I had the idea late on Friday, inspired by an anecdote I found in a book on London history. Yet by Sunday evening, I still hadn't written anything. The idea kept going around and around in my head, and I wanted to write it down, it's just I kept getting distracted by the Internet. I would start to plan the first line and oh! Would you look at that? I'd find another Friday Flash I wanted to read. I'm not one of these people who can have my laptop on and NOT have Tweetdeck running (unless, obviously, I have no wi-fi connection) so I did the only thing I could.

I unplugged.

Yes, that's right. I switched off my laptop, I put a CD of classical movie scores in the stereo, I picked up my A4 notebook, and I started writing. By hand. With a bright blue Pilot fineliner. Thirty three minutes later, I had my flash. It underwent some revisions during the transition from handwritten page to Word document, but by and large, it was done. I felt incredibly productive, and pleased that such a simple, and obvious, solution had worked. Making the switch from typing my work to writing it longhand also helped to break the miniature block I felt, a block that stood between the idea in my head, and the process of writing it down. Writing longhand took my brain by surprise, and it vaulted over the block with ease. Hurrah!

So if you're having a similar problem breaking through writer's block, or actually getting the work done, here are my three top tips.

  1. Disconnect from the Internet. It'll still be there when you're finished. If you can't stand being disconnected, switch off your computer altogether. Hey, you can be creative AND environmentally friendly.
  2. Make changes to your longhand methods. If you normally write in black biro, try purple fineliner, or pencil. The novelty will appeal to your creative side, and the divergence from habit will trick your brain out of its rut. (For more on how to use this technique when editing your work, check out this post on Writer's Block NZ)
  3. Don't worry too much about what you're writing while you're happily scrawling away. You'll get to edit it later when you type it up. For now, your job is simply to get what's in your head onto the page. If it helps, doodle in the margins. You can't do THAT in Word.

Say, what are you doing still reading this? Don't you have some writing to do?


Laura Eno said...

I just can't get any writing done in front of the computer. All my words are put down first on a yellow pad and PENCIL. My brain stops functioning with a cross-out.

JJ said...

I too have found the 'writing by hand' method successful when attempting to overcome writer's block. I got struck with a debilitating case of it in June and the good ol' fashioned notepad and pen was what finally broke me out of it. Great advice. And thanks for the link :-)

Walt said...

From time to time I'll write by hand, but I generally stick to doing basic outlines. I'll then take my notebook and laptop and start hashing out the story.

I'm easily distracted by Tweetdeck (its that notification box really) and often times have to turn it off. To fight the urge of check up on facebook or my email, I turn my word processor over to full screen mode (I either uses Pages on my Mac or Darkroom in Windows). I'm a lot more productive when all I have to stare at is a blinking cursor.

In addition, I usually have to turn my phone over to Silent, otherwise email and blackberry messenger alerts will draw me away from the word processor.

Icy Sedgwick said...

China Mieville actually said at the last talk I saw him at that he switched to writing longhand when he got 'stuck'. If it's good enough for him...

I always have my phone on silent, but then no one ever txts or calls me!

Marisa Birns said...

Great tips here. I used to write by longhand then type it up. But then fell into the habit of typing on computer.

However, there's too much time wasted staring at blank screen while I try to think of something to write. Then, of course, I go to read other things on computer. And then there's Twitter, etc. etc.

So will try your suggestions!

Icy Sedgwick said...

Let me know how you get on!

Birdie said...

Unplugging (though it was only shutting off instant messenger programs and hiding my browser) was the only way I got any writing done today. I need to unplug more often.

Anonymous said...

I carry a notebook and favourite black felt pen wherever I go to record snippets. I use my laptop for doing the bulk of my writing, but I will admit being easily distracted by the flashy lights and twitter updates. The other distractions I have are usually work related (marking papers or lesson preparation) or two young daughters (almost 5 and almost 3).
I am too tempted to diverge from the path chosen, and need greater self discipline.
I'm also liking the idea of writing longhand.
Adam B

Jen said...

Ugh, I agree--Most mornings I wake up with very good intentions about writing before I even check twitter or blogs, and then end up here anyway, reading & checking & whatever else. It's a two edged sword, certainly. I wouldn't want to be cut off forever, but disabling wireless on my netbook and heading out to a coffee shop sounds like a fine idea.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with this. I have my moleskine notebook everywhere I go and it's invaluable for writing down ideas and reminders and notes about cool little things you read or saw or heard.
Maybe we could make it a mission to find a weird little indie coffee shop somewhere and spend an hour or two with our notebooks?

Icy Sedgwick said...

I've always got some form of notepad with me, whether it's a small A6 jotter or a Moleskine A5. I've started sketching things I want to write about later, too. And yeah, we should find somewhere we can hole up and People Watch!

Jen said...

I'd be up for that! Unless having 3 or more at a table all staring at the people around us would draw too much attention. :)

Icy Sedgwick said...

Nah, the more the merrier! :-)

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