You know MTV Unplugged--that show where a major musical artist sits on a cozy stage with only a guitar or piano or ukulele (or whatever instrument he or she uses), plays, and sings without benefit of amplifiers, background tracks, or bubble machines? It's just an artist and his or her craft, and more often than not it is moving and raw and real. Well, guess what fellow writers? We need to unplug every now and then, too. Not from sound enhancers or the whammy bar (thank you, Guitar Hero, for my current state of musical literacy), but from all those things that are necessary and helpful, but often get in our way. I'm talking about you, Facebook and Twitter and Writing Blogs (but feel free to finish reading this blog before heeding my advice).
I don't know about you, but when I sit down to write, my process usually goes something like this: Make tea. Sit on chaise with laptop. Open manuscript. Read the last paragraph. Check email. Open Twitter. Log on to Facebook and read multiple status updates from friends stressing out about their NaNoWriMo word count. Open http://www.gofugyourself.com/ and wonder, once again, why these girls aren't my best friends. Read Inkygirl's latest blog and comic--if there's a new caption contest, spend the next few minutes trying vainly to come up with a witty caption (girlfriend is hilarious, btw . . . I know I'm telling you to go offline, but you really should check her out.). Maximize manuscript. Write a few lines. Send email to Kris telling her I'm writing. Refresh gofugyourself. Refresh Twitter. And so on and so forth . . .
Sound familiar? Sure, I've read all about how we need to cut the electronic leash--heck, my pastor literally wrote the book on simplifying our lives, on saying yes to the important things and no to meaningless distractions. And yet, I rarely put it into practice. But this past week was different. I attended a legal conference at a lovely hotel with lovely, child-free rooms and lovely, squishy, crumb-free beds . . . and wireless internet access priced at $9.95/day. I've mentioned I'm a public sector lawyer in California, right? And you've heard of a little thing we like to call CALIFORNIA'S MASSIVE BUDGET CRISIS, right? So, yea, I can't rationalize ten bucks for internet access when words like furlough and pay cut and phasing out are bandied about my office the way we used to talk about American Idol contestants and how Jon and Kate seemed like a cute couple. (Of course, I tried every unsecured network that showed up on my laptop to no avail. . .curse you kittyboy17 and your weak signal). So I sat in bed, ate a $3.00 bag of cheese crackers for dinner, and wrote. I wrote 500 words in about 40 minutes. I nearly finished an entire chapter in one evening. I unplugged and, oh my gosh, it worked.
And then in the morning (after discovering the lobby has free internet) I read a tweet from @inkyelbows (InkyGirl's twitter alter ego) announcing, "when you're reading about writing, you're not writing." Amen, sister.