How do people write without the internet?
I ask that question as if I didn’t grow up without the internet, writing stories and angsty poems with nothing but a ballpoint pen and a tattered exam pad.
I’m spoiled, is what I am. I want the ability to search for a Stoic quote to support my story, and to know which other famous authors often write without the internet. But that ability poses a certain threat.
And that’s Distraction with a capital ‘D’.
Which is why I’ve begun experimenting with internet-less drafting. And you know what? I’ve maintained a writing output of thousand words per day thanks to this technique that I shall now christen Drafting In The Dark™.
It just works!
Okay, DITD™ is not a real thing, but let’s just roll with it, just like how you roll with your own doubts when writing without the internet.
I know, I know. It’s blasphemy, right? How are you going to spell correctly? And is it ‘free rein’ or ‘free reign’?
Those are very valid reasons to want to keep you laptop connected to Wi-Fi, but I can assure you that you can survive your first draft by…
…Drafting In The Dark™.
Introducing the offline mind
You have an innate voice, and you don’t need other voices persuading you otherwise.
There’s just something about not switching tabs that gives your mind the calm to produce a story. Because there are levels to flow, and I’ve found that the second wind is where you truly plumb the depths of your Source™, where even the blankest of pages will be filled to the brim.
You just have to muck through the uninspired moments first. Painfully. Word by word. Without the internet.
The payoff is worth it, though. Forgo the internet long enough and your mind will begin telling stories of its own. No longer will you be bound by ‘research’ or editing as you write.
And once you decide to write without double-checking every single sentence online, you’ll start to discover the most valuable thing a writer can ask for. Your voice.
More boredom means more writing
I love the Neil Gaiman method of writing, where he sits himself in a room and only allows himself to either do nothing or write. Sooner or later, the pain of boredom makes writing so much more appealing, and that’s what Drafting In The Dark™ facilitates.
It’s so easy to go down the rabbit hole of ‘research’ when you fact-check every single thing. That includes video compilations of cats doing stupid things.
The next thing you know, you’ll have spent the entire day scouring the internet for the best fountain pen ink that’s permanent and waterproof. This is totally not an example from my own life, by the way.
You know how Steven Pressfield talks about the Resistance with a capital ‘R’? Well, writing with the internet lets Resistance right through your front door, who’ll in turn slam said door on Mister Get-Shit-Done’s face.
So turn off your Wi-Fi. Bore yourself. Connect with your voice.
Train your writing endurance
Did Neil Gaiman really lock himself in a room? Or is that an urban myth? Did Steven Pressfield really capitalise ‘the Resistance’, or am I just making that up? Also, why am I capitalising random phrases? Have writers lost their audiences from random capitalisations before?
So many questions, so little relevance. That’s exactly what you want to avoid when tackling the Shitty First Draft—googling unnecessary information that doesn’t belong in the flow of your story.
Yes, there are many ways to skin a cat, and you could be a writer that can’t move on till you get your previous sentence just right. But guess what? You still need to fill up the page either way. So you might as well zoom through your first draft.
Ignoring the doubts for your Shitty First Draft is a skill. One that can only be trained by powering through misused idioms and silly typos.
And when you don’t have the internet backing your every sentence, you’re forced to find your angle without any support. This will build your writing skills, even if you have to delete huge chunks of wrong arguments along the way.
As Neil Gaiman said, your first draft is you telling yourself the story. It’s in the second draft where you make it seem as though you knew what you were doing all along.
I paraphrased that quote from memory, by the way.
One thing may lead to another
I’m going to be honest, I wrote this post thinking it was going to be about first drafts, but halfway through, I settled on the angle of writing without the internet.
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 a decade now, I still learn new things on the daily, and my recent realisation is that the goal of the first draft isn’t to produce a final story, but to lay out all the ideas swimming in your head, so that you can flesh out the best ones later.
Basically, you’re not drafting to find the perfect ring. You’re sifting for the material to smelt one.
Writing with the internet only muddles your mind with two-way thinking. Drafting In The Dark™ keeps the traffic flowing one way: from your brain to the paper. And boy does your mind love taking interesting detours once you give it space to explore.
A technique worth trying
Don’t just take my word for it. Try it yourself. In fact, why not try both?
Draft in airplane mode for a week, then write with your Wi-Fi on after that. Do that multiple times. Notice how different your process feels each time you make the switch.
Draft In The Dark™ often enough and you’ll start to notice that it’s just like a writing sprint. But where sprints encourage you to write more through speeding up and thinking less, writing without the internet does this by reminding you that you’re the sole source of your words.
Want to enhance the process? Try writing with pen and paper. Some writers have even taken to typewriters or the Alphasmart to curb writing distractions. I personally just turn off Wi-Fi on my laptop, because sometimes the best solutions are the simplest ones.
Whatever you do, just remember this: there’s no one way to write. But if I could summarise this post in one sentence, it’d be this: Draft In The Dark™ to tap into the Source™ so that you can avoid the Resistance through the Shitty First Draft.
Ha ha. I just made that up through 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 that quote, though. I’ll need the internet for that.
Do you write regularly without the internet? Share your experience in the comments! Also, if you haven’t joined the newsletter already, you’re missing out on a ton of exclusive content similar to this one!