Author Elizabeth Benedict, editor of the recent anthology Mentors, Muses, & Monsters, discusses her experience being forced to unplug:
Finding this blank book already so full of hope and history — from Hemingway’s to my beloved sister-in-law’s — was a bit like encountering a bear in the woods: it was just the two of us, and it was up to me to save my skin. I couldn’t hide, couldn’t escape to the computer or connect anywhere but in its cream-colored pages. I began by rereading the manuscript pages from the novel — and I winced two dozen times. It was all too complicated, and there was no through line. There were voices but no story — or too many stories, and I only needed one — one with enough power to drive a novel. […]
I wrote three pages. By hand. With a pen. Later that day, I wrote two more. I woke up early every day for two weeks and wrote this way. It was primitive and thrilling, like cooking over a campfire, like celestial navigation. I wasn’t sure where I was going, but I was on a journey, and it felt natural, instead of cramped, for the first time in years.
In my own experience, I find it harder to write by hand than to type; because writing longhand is much slower than typing, I can’t get the words on paper fast enough and end up losing my train of thought. But Benedict’s essay may encourage me to try again sometime.
What about you? Do you ever feel the need to disconnect—from the Internet, from cell phones, from your computer itself? If faced with nothing but a blank Moleskine and a pen, do you think your writing would benefit?