Tag Archives: distractions

The Beauty of the Blank Page: Tips for Defeating Digital Diversions

I have a lot of respect for the writers of the past. It’s not so much their style that impresses me, because, let’s face it, people in the old days produced plenty of crap too. But when I think about the fact that for thousands of years writers had to actually physically write down their words onto paper it makes me a little awestruck.

Can you imagine the editing process? Or worse yet, the rewrites? Having to physically re-copy the entirety of a manuscript by hand? Can you imagine the day when “cut and paste” involved actual scissors and actual glue?

So yeah, computers are awesome. But like most awesome modern things they come with a price.

Because in a way, computers are too awesome. Not only do they come with wonderful word processing tools to help you make your writing the best it can be, but they also can connect to a million different diversions and distractions through the internet.

Maybe you’re stronger than me. Maybe when you sit down to write your words for the morning, it never occurs to you that Linkara should have posted a new comic review today, and it’s only like, thirty minutes long, so you’ve got time to bop over there and see what’s going on with that. Okay, so that one probably hasn’t happened to you, but you get the idea.

Distractions are the curse of the internet.

So what do you do? Well of course there’s always good old self-control. You can tell yourself to wait for that reward until you’ve finished writing. You can even switch off your computer’s internet connections for a while. But maybe you need a little extra layer of protection from all those temptations. Wouldn’t it be great if you could shut out all the rest of that stuff and focus on the page?

If that’s your dilemma then it’s time for you to meet my good friend Dark Room.  Dark Room is a fantastic little program that completely fills your screen with nothing but the empty page, waiting for you to fill it with your words. Of course it’s still possible to minimize it and get to other stuff on your computer if you need to, but I’ve found that often, with the visual distractions removed I’ve been able to focus more on the words I’m writing.

Dark Room is a fairly minimalist program. It has no spell check function. In a way it’s like installing a typewriter on your computer. What you type is what you see and nothing else.

The color scheme is adjustable so if neon green letters on a black screen aren’t your thing you can change it to something a little different. You can even change the font to Courier New to give it a real typewriter look.

Overall this has been a fantastic tool for me. I don’t use it all the time, but when I hear the siren song of digital distractions I open it up and indulge myself in the decadence of a truly blank page.

If any of you struggle with the endless distractions of the internet I highly recommend you try this little program. It’s free and simple to use. And it may just help you accomplish something wonderful.

The Dark Room program can be downloaded here.

Searching for Silence

A man I know and respect once said, “The only true cardinal sin remaining in today’s culture is the sin of boredom.” And it’s true. We’ve built a society that is addicted to entertainment.

To a certain point that isn’t all bad. We’re human. We need something more than basic nutrition and shelter to meet our needs. Good entertainment can serve to feed the soul like food feeds the body.

But when I look around me at all the things we’ve built up to distract us, all the noise and pretty colors set up like walls to keep the silence out, it makes me wonder. What if it were all gone? What if we were left alone with ourselves?

I decided to do an experiment to find out.

I turned off my computer, I shut off all my cells phone’s various apps, and I set the timer for thirty minutes. Then I sat down in my writing chair, and I waited.

At first there was a kind of panic that swept over me. I remember wondering “What was I thinking? Half an hour of just sitting and thinking? This is stupid, this is pointless. Bring me back my playthings!”

But gradually that moment passed, and I was left with…silence. I started thinking. I didn’t have a plan or any kind of goal. I just wanted to know what my mind could accomplish in half an hour with no distractions.

I let my thoughts run over the edits I had planned for my story The Mulch Pile. After a while I drifted on to more abstract thoughts: philosophy, theology, psychology. And before I knew it the alarm clock went off and I went back about my daily routine.

What was the end result? I’d love to tell you I experienced some kind of deep revelation, or came to some great personal understanding, but none of those things are true. But I did get quite a bit of advance planning done for my revisions and edits, and I found my mind wandering through some interesting labyrinths of thought and memory.

In the end I’m glad I did it. I think its important for all of us to remember who we are outside of all the distractions and diversions we surround ourselves with. I wonder if far too often we let the noise of entertainment and social media drown out the deeper and more meaningful messages in our lives.

I know many of you have busy days and carving out time to do something so seemingly pointless as sitting and thinking with no distractions may not come easily for you. But I urge you to try it, at least once. Dare to strip away all the noise, and you may find something meaningful waiting in the silence.