How do people write without the Internet?
I ask this question as if I didn’t grow up without the Internet, writing short stories and disturbing poems with nothing but a ballpoint pen and a battered exam pad.
I’m spoiled, that’s what I am. I want to be able to search for Stoic quotes to support my story and know what other famous authors often write offline. But this ability poses a certain threat.
And that’s Distraction with a capital letter.
That’s why I started experimenting with writing offline. And you know what? Thanks to this technique, which I will now refer to as “Drafting in the Dark™”, I have kept myself writing a thousand words a day.
It just works!
OK, DITD™ isn’t a real thing, but let’s just cut to the chase, how do you deal with your doubts when you’re writing offline.
I know, I know. That’s blasphemy, right? How will you write correctly? And is it “freedom to govern” or “freedom to govern”?
These are very good reasons to keep your laptop connected to Wi-Fi, but I can assure you that you it is possible relive your first draft…
…Creation in the Dark™.
Introducing the offline mind
You have an innate voice and you don’t need other voices to convince you otherwise.
There’s something about not having to switch tabs that gives your mind peace of mind to create a story. Because there are different levels, and I’ve found that the second breath is where you really dig into the depths of your Source™, where even the blankest page will be filled to the brim.
You just have to get through the uninspired moments first. It hurts. Word for word. Without internet.
However, the payoff is worth it. Give up the internet long enough and your mind will start telling its own stories. You will no longer be bound by “research” or editing while writing.
And once you decide to write without checking every sentence online, you’ll begin to discover the most valuable thing a writer could ask for. Your voice.
More boredom means more writing
I like Neil Gaiman’s writing method where he sits in a room and allows himself to either do nothing or write. Sooner or later, the pain of boredom makes writing a lot more appealing, and that’s what Drafting In The Dark™ does.
When you fact check everything, it’s so easy to go down the rabbit hole of “research”. This includes video compilations of cats doing stupid things.
Next thing you know, you’ve spent the day searching the internet for the best fountain pen inks that are permanent and waterproof. This completely not an example from my own life, by the way.
You know how Steven Pressfield talks about Resistance with a capital letter? Well, writing over the Internet lets the Resistance right through your front door, which will in turn slam that door in Mr. Smack’s face.
So turn off your Wi-Fi. Tire yourself. Connect with your voice.
Train your writing stamina
Did Neil Gaiman really lock himself in a room? Or is it an urban myth? Did Stephen Pressfield really capitalize “Resistance” or am I just making this up? Also, why am I capitalizing random phrases? Have writers used to lose their audience because of casual capitalization?
So many questions, so little relevance. This is exactly what you want to avoid when dealing with a “Bad First Draft” – Googling for unnecessary information that doesn’t belong in the flow of your story.
Yes, there are many ways to skin the cat and you could be the writer who can’t move on until you understand your previous sentence. But guess what? You still need to fill out the page anyway. That way, you can also increase your first draft.
Ignoring the doubt for your crappy first draft is a skill. One that can only be taught through the use of misused idioms and silly typos.
And if you don’t have the Internet backing up your every sentence, you’re forced to find your angle without any support. This will improve your writing skills, even if you have to delete huge chunks of invalid arguments along the way.
As Neil Gaiman said, your first draft is the story you tell yourself. It’s in the second draft where you make it seem like you knew what you were doing all along.
By the way, I paraphrased this quote from memory.
One thing can lead to another
To be honest, I wrote this post thinking it was going to be about first drafts, but halfway through I decided on the offline writing angle.
Sometimes you just need the freedom to roam before you can find out what you really want to say.
Even after writing for a living for ten years, I still learn new things on a daily basis, and I recently realized that the purpose of the first draft is not to create the final story, but to lay out all the ideas, that affect your head, so you can specify the best of them later.
Basically, you don’t shop around to find the perfect ring. You sift for material smell alone.
Writing over the Internet only confuses your mind with double-thinking. Drafting In The Dark™ supports one-way traffic: from your brain to the paper. And boy does your mind love to take interesting detours when you give it space to explore.
A technique worth trying
Don’t take my word for it. Try it yourself. In fact, why not try both?
Draft in airplane mode for a week, then write with Wi-Fi on. Do this several times. Notice how different your process is each time you make the switch.
Draft in the Dark™ often enough that you’ll start to notice it’s like a writing sprint. But where sprints encourage you to write more through acceleration and less thought, offline writing does so by reminding you that you the only source of your words.
Want to improve your process? Try writing with pen and paper. Some writers even took up typewriters or Alphasmart to curb distractions from writing. Personally, I just turn off wifi on my laptop because sometimes the best solutions are the simplest.
Whatever you do, just remember: there is no one way to write. But if I could sum up this post in one sentence, it would be: Draft in the Dark™ to engage the Source™ so you can avoid the Resistance through a crappy first draft.
Haha. I just made it up with the power of my mind. No, wait, don’t leave.
On a more serious note, just remember that writing is rewriting. Too bad I can’t tell you who came up with this quote. I will need internet for this.
Do you regularly write offline? Share your experience in the comments! Plus, if you haven’t joined the newsletter yet, you’re missing out on tons of exclusive content like this!