Today (March 3) is the National Day of Unplugging.
In what ways do you unplug?
I go tech free frequently when I’m writing. I still frequently compose stories longhand. I can attest to this by the stacks of legal pads (canary yellow is for fiction writing, white is for business writing. LOL) you see below.
There’s probably the beginnings, middles, and ends to about 30 stories in that stack alone. And it only goes back a few months, because I tend to throw away the paper once I’ve transcribed pages to the computer.
Why Writers Especially Should Unplug
Personal perspective here, but I think writers should unplug frequently. Why? Have you ever noticed that a lot of writers who go pro and stop doing another job, and write for a long time, start to write main characters who work as writers? While is not inherently bad, what I think it does is make a writer myopic, viewing a too-narrow slice of the world to be relevant to much else than other writers who read.
In the same way, I think writers who never unplug, who never, or seldom, experience life without the internet, without technology, and go without face-to-face interactions, begin to write nothing but those sorts of scenarios. Oh, they can write dystopias, technology failures, and panic ensues, but the richness of their world-building tends to deteriorate. They have internet cafes, and meetings over coffee, and texting for dates. They have characters that go on special outings, but rarely is there a character whose whole life is unplugged. Statistically less than 30% of the population, even in the U.S., is plugged in.
With our noses buried in our phones and our social network feeds, our experiences are rapidly narrowing to our “echo chambers”: people who live, act, work and think, exactly like we do. The antagonists being created are one-note, simplistic, simply because we struggle to imagine the “other” as fully three dimensional.
The art of people-watching that filled the ink pens of such greats as Hemingway and Ann Bannon and Virginia Woolf is rare these days. Yes, we do people-watch, but we do it in snippets seldom long enough to go beneath the “read” of a situation. We engage in people-watching and people-listening so much less that it has stultified most dialogue being written today. Characters are now either easily read liars or emo-ing their hearts out, talking in cliches and short memes. Created dialogues where there are layers of multiple meanings and feelings is rare.
Human beings are producing more books at this time in history than in any other. Thanks to the internet’s removal of gatekeepers we can self-publish or find a small press that loves to publish niche writing. But the percentage of the books produced that are quality writing are much a much smaller percentage than ever before.
Another benefit – Original Thinking
I also think that more unplugging would result in fewer one-offs, stories that are merely a repackaged television show, movie, or mashup of two or more.
So, my question isn’t so much how will you unplug today, but how will you use this national day of unplugging to refill your writer’s well with quality ink. What new original experiences and observations will you engage in?
As for me, I’m on my way out to a city park with my dog. Then this afternoon, I’m headed to a social gathering with about a dozen new friends. Maybe the experience and observations I have will become the inspiration for my next story, or several.