distraction no.99

Nova Ren Suma | On Writing & Writing Distractions

Not an Author Newsletter… something else.

If You Go Dark

If You Go Dark

If you go dark… If you slip quietly off Twitter… Change your password on Facebook… Unsubscribe from industry blogs and only read the blogs that inspire… Ignore all stories of book deals… Ignore comparisons to other writers who you aren’t…

If you go dark, what happens? Does your writing get better for it? Can you reach clarity? Does your pace quicken? Do your plots turn on a dime? Do you reach the level you think your novels could reach… if only there were less noise in the way?

Hmm. I wonder.

Anyone who has any thoughts on this, do say. Then again, if you’re doing it right, you’re not reading this post, are you?

36 responses to “If You Go Dark”

  1. Hi Nova! I’ve been lurking here after following you here from the Blueboards to read about your writing retreat.

    I don’t have an answer, but I have certainly asked that same question many times! I will be interested to see what others say. I have been wondering if my own state of mind would improve if I did so.

    • Thanks for following me over, Deva! I wish there were a solid answer, a way to know for sure… I’m answerless for the moment, that’s for sure.

  2. Does your writing get better for it? Can you reach clarity? Does your pace quicken? Do your plots turn on a dime? Do you reach the level you think your novels could reach… if only there were less noise in the way?

    In my experience, there is no provable connection between going dark and any of these things.

    BUT – I am happier and more at peace. That I KNOW.

    • Thanks, Sara. I’ve been thinking a lot of how you seem to balance things, and I always find your advice so helpful. I know it’s not a magic answer… but I can’t help wondering how it would change me.

  3. I think that these days, no matter how much we want to go dark, we’re forced to self-promote like crazy just to get a few readers onto our blog and hope that one of them knows someone who knows someone who will listen to them about how amazing we are. I hope.


  4. I’ve done this before, cut cold turkey from the net and honestly, I found myself much more productive in my writing. But then, Oops!, I needed to swing on to Facebook to get someone’s contact info and that left me hooked. Then there are the blogs. Oh dear, the blogs link you deeper into the net and then you seem lost in the all-consuming blogosphere. I found myself deleting my FB account. As for the blogs, I’ve had to weed through them and delete bunches from my RSS feeds. But Twitter, I love Twitter! I don’t see myself leaving it.

    I really do think one’s level of productivity is subjective. Some work well multi-tasking, which may or may not include all of the above. Whereas someone like me, I work better when I’m isolated.

    During your retreat, you must have found that clarity? Withdrawal must have been diffiicult.

    • Ginny, I find myself having the same problem! I’m like, Oh I’ll just log in and answer that message…

      But then I click on something, and I click on something else, and I see something I didn’t want to, and my self-esteem goes plummeting, and I lose an hour, and I go back to write and… I don’t feel like it anymore. Funny how that keeps happening.

      Twitter is great. I love it too. But it’s too much for me right now, I think.

      I did find clarity during my retreat, and I think that’s why this has happened once I got home. The clarity I found while away was a fake clarity though, always temporary, because real life was waiting just around the bend.

  5. Hi Nova! I’ve been loving your blog ever since I started following a couple months ago. Very inspiring.

    My friend, writer Edan Lepucki, wrote a piece about this for The Millions earlier this year. She took a three month break from the Internet…and really hasn’t come back (except for The Millions, which is a paying gig). Check out her experience: http://www.themillions.com/2010/04/ceasing-to-exist-three-months-in-the-social-media-detox-ward.html You might have seen the article already; it became a bit of a meme, which is ironic.

  6. i “went dark” out of necessity — new job, moving, settling in, heroin addiction — and didn’t find that my writing improved; if anything, it kept me from writing, because i just found other distractions instead. the more i stay on writing blogs, and blog myself, the more it makes me want to write.

    then again, i’m weird that way.

    • Heh.

      Actually, it’s not the writing blogs that ruin me. In fact, reading them—yours included!—fires me up and gets me excited. It’s the publishing industry blogs that bother me: the big book deals, the marketing plans and giveaway contests, the review sites, the e-rights debate… all that. I’ve unsubscribed from many blogs this weekend because of that.

      p.s. I’m glad you’re no longer dark. I love your blog.

  7. Seems to me that when I’m in the zone, there’s no time or inclination for stupid Internet browsing, and when I’m not feeling it, I could be locked in an empty room with a tablet and a pen and still not feel it. Well, I’ve learned that some days you’ve gotta force it, that you don’t need the muse hovering over your shoulder 24/7 and that, most importantly, NO ONE can tell the difference between the words you write through divine inspiration and the ones you dredge, painstakingly, hand by hand, up from the murky depths of your psyche.

    Bottom line: LOLcats make my life better. But I wouldn’t mind spending a month immersed in writing someplace without wifi.

    • Monica, I know you freelance as I do now. I’d love to hear more about how you manage your time… when is “work” time and when is “writing” time? Do you divide it up? Do you have a schedule? Do you only write when you feel like being creative? With deadlines, I can’t afford to do that because I’d never turn in on time, so I have to clear the decks I guess and make way for creativity… but how???? How do you do it?

  8. I think about this ALL the time, so I have no answers for you. I change my mind almost every day. Some days I delete half the blogs in my Google Reader. Then I put them all back the next.


    • Haha. Laughing only because I deleted half the blogs in my Google Reader just yesterday! But YOURS is still there 😉

      I wish I had the answers, too.

  9. Hi Ms. Nova,

    Long time reader, love the blog.

    I “went dark” for a month last June. I swore off Facebook, Livejournal, MySpace, all blogging or social networking sites that promote conversation, feedback, and the occasional attention-whoring. And though I can’t say if my writing got better as a result, it did get deeper. Without the mental noise generated by constantly updating my status and commenting on blogs, my brain was free to focus on finding deeper meaning and symbolism in my writing. I was able to weave merely functional aspects of the piece into the larger whole. I began to see connections I don’t think I would have found had I not taken a break from my life online.

    • Thanks, iread! Thanks for reading! I don’t feel like being an “attention-whore” right now, maybe that’s my issue! But I like what you said about how your writing got _deeper_. That may just be what I’m looking for.

      What you said: beautiful.

      You’ve inspired me even more than before to try it.

  10. Everyone’s happiness and productivity is individual. Connecting with others and staying connected helps me with my happiness and productivity, so I can’t ever see myself going dark, ever…but you may want to. I will miss you, though. Will we still be able to email? or will we have to resort to postal mail?

  11. sometimes i’ll see some obscure subject on-line and it will trigger ideas i can use in my writing. if it were not for that, i’d definitely go dark.

  12. Sometimes I’ll sneak off for a while, but I’ve always come back. I miss the news and community of being online too much to go away forever and it seems like it’s harder to keep up and balance things when you first come back.

    I’d probably be a better writer and artist if I spent less time online, but I don’t know if that would be true if I went completely dark. There’s a lot to be said for being able to connect with other creative people, to read industry news, and to do research if you have the spark of an idea.


    • I agree, Stephanie! And thank you for your comments on my more recent post. I see we’re facing similar dilemmas and are trying out the same thing! Best of luck to us both. 🙂

      • From the responses here and on my blog, it seems like this has struck a chord. I wonder if it will be the same for the generation that’s in HS now. They’re so used to being connected all the time. Maybe to them it’s like having music on while you work? Speaking of work, I better go do that now.

        Thanks for the luck! Sending some back your way. 🙂

  13. I don’t believe “going dark” would help me. If anything, the community I find online is enough to warrant the time I spend online. That and the Guns N Roses videos I look up on You Tube.


    • Please PLEASE please don’t go looking up Guns N Roses videos on YouTube.

      I’m saying that to myself, Bryan, not you. 😉

      …and now I will totally go look up an old video for “Paradise City”… curious.

  14. I’m sort of in the midst of doing this and it’s scary. I’ve totally switched off from “gotta get published” and am focusing on a) sanity and b) the story. I think on the whole it’s good for me, I mean, my life situation at the moment is really different from everything I expected and SURVIVAL is pretty high on the list of priorities (in a good way!) I can’t seem to give up Facebook, mind you.

    • SURVIVAL is #1, and I’m so glad that you’re focusing on your writing rather than all the other “gotta get published” noise beyond it. First the writing… then the “published” should fall in to place. Best of luck to you, Helen!

  15. I refused Twitter from the start, b/c I feared I’d get addicted to it. I haven’t offcially closed FB, but I check it only once weekly perhaps. But I don’t see myself quitting blog writing and reading. It’s so inspiring and moving at times. Getting rid of addictions of any kind surely helped me focus on how I want to use my time = writing. It also eased the guilt of wasting time on stupid things.

    • I don’t think I should quit blog reading and blog writing because I see how it helps. I see how the inspiration pushes me forward. I never get that feeling from Twitter, though (except in that it’ll lead me to a link I wouldn’t have seen otherwise). Most often from Twitter, I get the exact opposite result.

      Don’t join Twitter if you’re fearing addiction!

  16. Thank you for all the thoughtful responses… As you can see, I’m questioning if I should do this or not, even halfway, as @c(h)ristine says above, and as you can see if you happen to follow me on Twitter, I haven’t succeeded in even trying yet. I just want to work as hard as I possibly can, and I really don’t see how being online helps that. Hard work does not include refreshing Twitter in my browser or checking Gawker three times a day or reading about book deals and if publishing is about to crash because B&N is letting you sell your self-pubbed book on their website. All of this is interesting, but it’s not helping me write my novel that’s due or my next novel that I’d like to publish someday if I can ever finish my synopsis.

    “Going dark” sounds so drastic, but I wonder… how much work would I get done if my head was clearer and more focused?

    It’s a question I can’t stop asking myself.

    • i think it is a matter of paring down, for survival. i have been a huge proponent of social networking–but when it begins to work against you and not for you, then it’s time to cut back. social networking hit an overload for me this week, pushing information after information that did me in. at a certain point, i’d like to (somewhat) manage what i hear and read and see.

      did i have to tweet about something funny i saw in the grocery store? no. so i didn’t. & although it felt weird at first, it also felt nice to disengage. and to know that that energy will eventually channel into my writing, and into my very needy neglected novel revision.

      i don’t think i could go totally dark, but i’ll dim the lights; i’m going to pare down the blogs i read, i’m going to stop being so “dependent” on twitter and facebook. and i’m going to start by going OFF of FB and twitter for a week or two, ala the South Beach Diet (you know–no carbs whatsoever the first couple of weeks, then very select carbs and mindful eating for maintenance). let’s see if it works. i think it will lead to better mental and physical health for me.

      and i hope it will, for you, too.

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