The Blitz

Off the Grid – Stay Motivated, Not Distracted

Time offline can lead to greater focus and creativity. Motivation can come from many places. How about from inside you? What can you, an author, do without your computer? So many things! —- How are your efforts to stay motivated working? Are you doing the writing you want to be doing? Or are you distracted?…

  • Time offline can lead to greater focus and creativity.
  • Motivation can come from many places. How about from inside you?
  • What can you, an author, do without your computer? So many things!

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How are your efforts to stay motivated working? Are you doing the writing you want to be doing?

Or are you distracted?

Did you know, Americans spend an average of 6.5 hours a day on the internet.

Pew Research found that most of us spend almost a full day on the internet a week. That’s nuts!

Does the internet help you procrastinate? Does it distract you from writing? Do you ever get sick of being online?

For me, yes to all of the above.

A year ago, we had to cancel plans to Costa Rica because of COVID. This year, we finally went.

And I’ve been thinking about the positive effects of being off the grid. Especially for writers.

I was off the grid, completely, for ten days. No phone. No tablet. No internet.

In those ten days, I read five paper books.

I slept and meditated. I swam, surfed and hiked. Ate good food. Took some Spanish lessons on the beach. I wrote by hand.

But I was in Costa Rica.

Back in the day, that would have mattered because we really were unreachable.

These days, we’re completely reachable no matter where we are. I had to deliberately put myself off the grid.

The big question was: could I do this at home?

We live our lives online. My day job is spent on the computer.

And because I’m in marketing and communications, it’s also spent on social media and news sites.

The other day, I was in two meetings – at the same time. One on Zoom and one on Microsoft Teams. AND I was answering emails and watching my phone in case a text came in.

How ridiculous is that? Am I supposed to write after that?

Um, no. After that, all I want is a stiff drink and some mindless television.

But I don’t have that kind of day on the weekend or holidays.

So could I go off the grid in some sense, and rejuvenate without having to fly across the planet to do it?

A little experiment told me yes.

This experiment is not off the grid in the way living in the Alaskan bush is off the grid.

It’s more like deliberate breaks from my devices.

My experiment lasted three weeks. Here’s what I did:

  • First, I logged off the internet by 5:30 every day during the week.
  • Left my phone to charge downstairs (not by my bed). Every night.
  • I also left my tablet downstairs and read paper books instead of watching TV before I went to bed. Every night.
  • Turned off all notifications on my phone after 5:30pm and all weekend. (I did have an exception for my daughter and my husband. They have their own ringtones for calls and texts).
  • Wrote by hand on a yellow notepad. Then transferred that to my Atticus program during the week.
  • Continued my daily walk habit (this has been a gamechanger for me the past two years).

I felt less overwhelmed and less anxious. And way more productive in my writing over the weekend than I have in quite some time.

Will this work to help you stay motivated?

Maybe not this exact scenario, but think about your life and where you can experiment with being off the grid.

Maybe it’s an internet blocker while you’re writing? Apps like Freedom, Cold Turkey, or AntiSocial are good ones to block internet distractions and let you focus on writing.

Business Insider found Fortune 500 company execs were way more productive when they used these types of apps.

How about taking all social off your tablet and use it only to read your Kindle books?

Leave the social for your phone and designate a time to scroll. Then stick with it.

Or put a reminder on your phone to get up and walk around every hour?

One of the reasons I think it was so easy in Costa Rica was because there was a lot to do other than being on my phone.

So what can you do that helps you stay motivated and fun offline?

Well, one thing is write. We’re writers. That’s what we do.

The minute you feel the itch, ask yourself is there something you could be doing to advance your story instead?

  • Create a story bible.
  • Do a character sketch.
  • Draw a map of your setting.
  • Create a family tree.
  • None of these have to be done online.

Another thing is live your life. It’s a little hard to write about life if we really aren’t living it anywhere but on a 4×5-inch computer in our hands.

Become a tourist in your hometown. Visit museums, parks, other attractions you’ve saved for “one day” and haven’t gotten around to.

Take up tennis or hiking or sailing. Whatever.

Find a weird, fun, quirky habit you enjoy. My daughter paints. I cook. We both like to make soap.

Whatever you decide, let it feed your soul. Try the new habits for just three weeks and see if you can stay motivated and not distracted.