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…if you let it become one.

For the past few days, I’ve finally started to kick the habit of always being connected to the internet and begin working on my novel without that distraction.

It wasn’t easy. I had to move to a internet-free room to resist the temptation, bringing my computer to the dining room table (funny how now the table is just as if not more cluttered than my work desk. It seems being surrounded by books and notebooks = productivity).

Before, when I was on my computer, I was online. The only time I did writing while not being connected was when I was working in my notebook, which I rarely did.

One of the things I noticed I also did is I went into writing chat rooms whenever I began to work. The idea was that being in a chat full of other writers would help me focus.

Sometimes this worked, sometimes it didn’t.

In one way it helped me to focus was being able to participate in word wars. If you don’t know, a word war is when two or more writers race each other at the keyboard for a specific amount of time. The object is to write more words than the other person during that bit of time, but usually any words written is praised.

I started doing word wars a few years ago when I was first introduced to NaNoWriMo. Back then I faced off a monster of a typist who I could never beat, so I never even tried, right from the beginning. Mostly they were 15 – 30 mins long. But then I learned about the glorious 1hour word war, which was a godsend that helped me write my NaNo08 WIP. For me, the word war just needed me to get started, then I took care of the rest myself and I hated stopping early because it ruined my flow, so the longer the word war, the better.

But soon it became something like a trigger. A crutch. Whenever the internet fell, the chat didn’t work, or no one was interested in writing or warring, I didn’t write. I couldn’t focus. And the internet itself didn’t help much either way (Damn you adultwimgames.com. Damn you.) So I was always online and logged in to one form of online social media network or another.

When I first tried working offline, I couldn’t do it. It felt weird. I felt like something was missing, and my mind wondered. Eventually the internet itch needed to be scratched and I was back online.

But I had to keep working at it.  Cold-turkey I went! I mentioned this before, wanting to work more by myself. It makes a lot more sense once I realized that most of any writing gets done offline, when you’re alone. So it made sense to spend more time there.

What really convinced me I needed to embrace doing it on my own was when I realized I wasn’t really warring unless I was in the mood to write to begin with. I couldn’t force a word war if I was in the wrong mood. It was much easier to pretend I was warring in order to keep procrastinating and not have the other person judge me.

I had to accept the reality that I wasn’t getting anything done this way, or it definitely wasn’t helping anymore. In the end, I realized the word war and the writing chat room was just a need to be watched, for my work to be acknowledged before it was even close to being completed.

It was just a way to get that sense of satisfaction without actually doing the work.

The other day, I met with a passionate, 15-year-old writer. It was looking in a mirror of how I was when I was his age (or maybe even now?). He couldn’t stop talking about his story. He was in love with it. Obsessed. But he was all over the place and hadn’t completed anything.

I felt like one of the transitions between an aspiring writer and a working writer is that there’s a whole lot less talking and a whole lot more writing.

Of course, complete isolation doesn’t work either. The writing community is a wonderful thing. But I think should be like a place you go to unload after a full day of work and productivity, rather than before.

Where do you get most of your work done? Connected or Offline?