Internet-free Tuesdays?

This wasn’t taken yesterday; it’s from sunny Saturday. Yesterday, you would have had a photo of me in front of the computer. Less… Symbolic.

After Keris’ Simplify/Focus post struck such a loud chord in me, I decided to take a day off from the internet. The very fact that this was Quite A Big Deal told me how necessary an experiment it was. Ah-hem.

I was ‘allowed’ to check my email first thing and at the end of the working day (five o’clock), but the browser was to remain strictly closed. I’m actually quite embarrassed to admit how nervous (and excited) I was by this prospect. While I wouldn’t say I’m addicted to the internet, I definitely have an ingrained habit and I was truly uncertain as to whether I’d manage it. Especially when you consider I sit right in front of the delivery system all freaking day.

Well, I’m happy (and relieved – God, I would hate to discover an uncontrollable addiction that required internet cold-turkey. That would suck.) to report that my day went swimmingly.

It did feel odd and holiday-like. There were moments when I absent-mindedly clicked on Outlook or Firefox (I had Freedom set for eight hours though, so no cheating occurred) and I did feel a bit sad at about four o’clock when I realised I had another hour to go before I could check my email.

But, mainly, it was ace. My morning lasted a lot longer than usual. I felt calmer. I felt more focused and in control. I wrote lists and I wrote in my diary and I brainstormed ideas for articles and blog posts. I wrote 1200 words on the zero draft and thought about the structure of the story.

I also; cleaned the kitchen, went to the post office, spoke to my mother-in-law on the phone, listened to a StoryWonk podcast, and read a book for an hour.

In other words, I demonstrated just how much time I’ve been spending faffing online.

It also brought home the difference between enjoying and engaging with the bountiful online world and this:

[Image by the incomparable Hyperbole and a Half]

I’ve decided to have one internet-free weekday (and I’m aiming to build up to avoiding it on the weekends, too).

I love the internet. I love blogs and vlogs and and pretty pictures and chatting on Twitter, but I love reading books, knitting and sewing, making lists with a pencil, day-dreaming, and writing, too.

It boils down to this: I need to spend less time consuming and more time creating. Who’s with me?

Writers on Writing: Haruki Murakami

In his memoir What I Talk About When I Talk About Running Murakami covers training for marathons alongside reminiscences from his life and travels and, of course, his writing.

It’s a slim volume that captivated me even though I have no particular interest in running (apart from to admire the discipline and effort involved) and am more likely to grow a second head than to go for a jog.

I particularly liked this passage in which Murakami discusses the similarities between long distance running and writing a novel:

I stop every day right at the point where I feel I can write more. Do that, and the next day’s work goes suprisingly smoothly… To keep on going, you have to keep up the rhythm. This is the important thing for long-term projects. Once you set the pace, the rest will follow. The problem is getting the flywheel to spin at a set speed – and to get to that point takes as much concentration and effort as you can manage.

Do you agree? How important is pace to you?

Towel Day; who knew?

I was introduced to Douglas Adams at a young age. I remember listening to Hitch-Hikers on the radio with my brother and picking up the books from my parents’ shelves as soon as I was able.

Despite these impeccable credentials, I wasn’t aware that May 25th is Towel Day in honour of the great man.

To celebrate, people are sharing their favourite Douglas Adams quotes on Twitter and I thought I’d join in. This is actually one of my brother’s favourites but it’s so apt for my state of mind today that I’m going with it:

I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.

Monday Motivation: An Invocation for Beginnings

I’m always firmly behind the zeitgeist – five years ago I would’ve been earnestly asking if you’d seen this cool show called The West Wing. Anyhoo, that’s a long way of saying that I only just discovered Ze Frank (courtesy of Laini Taylor’s blog – thank you!). He ran a popular YouTube show back in 2006 and has recently relaunched his Vlog channel.

‘An Invocation for Beginnings’ is an excellent way to warm up for a writing session (or any creative endeavour, really), but do resist clicking through the rest of his videos. At least until AFTER you’ve finished work.

Stefan Bucher has designed a poster with the full text of the invocation. It’s available here.

Friday Five: The soundtrack edition

I’ve always liked listening to (loud) music to kickstart a writing session. It energises me and helps to block out both the real world and extraneous mind-chatter.

These days I go a step further and create a soundtrack for the story I’m working on. This works in two ways: the act of choosing music helps me ‘discover’ the world of the story and, because I listen to the same stuff  every time I work on the book, it becomes a path into that world.

I have to steer clear of things that already have strong, personal resonances, and I also have to accept that I may be sick to the back teeth of the tracks in twelve months time. Luckily, that seems to wear off again. My first book had an all-Aretha Franklin soundtrack and I still adore her!

I’m in the early stages of a new book and the soundtrack is a work in progress, but I thought I’d share some of it.

1. First up is Blue Orchid by The White Stripes. This occurs half way through the compilation, but sometimes I put it on first as a shot-of-addrenaline to get me started.

2. There’s a lot of dreamy, quiet music so far, and Shine by Laura Marling has a haunting, aching quality that’s just perfect.

3. Etta James I’d Rather Go Blind.This isn’t a theme for a romantic storyline; it’s an emblem of the antagonist’s destructive obsession.

4. Evil (Is Going On) by Howlin’ Wolf. Yes, there’s a lot of evil in the book. Fun!

5. This last track is one I put on initially just because I liked it and the title ‘Shapes and Shadows’ felt right. Not sure where it fits in terms of the book, but I’m going  to trust that my subconscious knows what it’s doing.

How about you? Do you listen to music while writing or do you require silence? Have you tried making a book soundtrack?

The William Soutar Writing Prize 2012

This short story competition is run by Perth and Kinross library but is open to writers anywhere in the world. It’s free to enter and the deadline is Monday 18 June 2012.

First prize is an Arvon residential writing course (worth around £600) and second prize is £100 in book tokens. There’s also a local prize (£50 book token) awarded to a resident of Perth and Kinross.

Entries can be in English or Scots and you can download an entry form here.