5 reasons writers need to hit the pause button


 It’s exhausting to always be making and talking, whether in front of people or behind them, synchronously or asynchronously. Now, when every popular technology is just another doorway opening onto the ever unfolding dormitory of life—the one we’re all expected to drift up and down with casual curiosity, looking in on each other for the latest bit of gossip or distraction—not even our desks are our private domain. We’re always just a click away from leaving the workbench for the forum.   —from a recent article in The Atlantic

A week ago you told yourself you’d finally start that article on your incredible trip to Siberia…Thailand…the Daintree Forest. Three days ago you told yourself you’d finally start that article on your incredible trip to Siberia…Thailand…the Daintree Forest. Yesterday you sat down to write that article. As of today, you haven’t written that article. Somehow, each time you sat down, there was e-mail to check, Facebook to check, Instagram to check. There was always something – then suddenly it was time to go to bed. The portal into your writing had become a doorway into too much to do. It’s time to hit the pause button.

1. Being on the internet is being in a world that only uses your vision and hearing. The strongest travel writing is based on experiencing with all your senses, with being solidly in Place. Only when you write from your sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch can you bring your reader into the adventure. If you doubt this, try writing a compelling travel article from looking at a gorgeous travel pic on the internet.

2. Multi-tasking keeps you from focusing. Writing is about simultaneously focusing and letting go. You use your brain differently when you’re darting from one task to another – and multi-tasking speeds up your thoughts too much for you to be able to write. Multi-tasking inevitably leads to more multi-tasking. There is always more to do. Except writing.

3. You use different areas of your brain when you are in virtual reality. Your memory can be weakened. Memory is crucial to vivid detailed travel writing. Without details, the reader might as well be standing in their own front yard. Read how the Internet is changing your brain.

4.  Even when you are not lost in web surfing, making yourself frantically busy in your life can be a way to avoid that hard moment when you sit down to write and find yourself either anxious or bored. The path into the writing can be through the anxiety and/or boredom. The way to enter those states is to stop DOING. Your stories lie on the other side of your anxiety, your boredom. This experiment always works. Do nothing for thirty minutes. As soon as the time is up, pick up your pen (stay off the computer) begin with this sentence, “I feel…” and keep writing.

5. We serve our writing. The writing doesn’t serve us. Every time you choose busyness over your writing, you reinforce your mind in believing that your writing doesn’t matter. Consider giving yourself a half day a week to simply being in the world and to writing by hand. If that seems impossible, go back to the top of this list and read it – and live it – again.

[Photo: Peter Alfred Hess]

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