The Digital Writers’ Playbook – Part 1

See the boy in centre stage, surrounded by a mountain of paper that is threatening to topple over. One slight breeze and… see the boy no more.

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It’s no real secret that contemporary Australian writers, especially young Australia contemporary writers, are in a constant state of negotiation for time and resources. With a billion and one worries, electric selves to manage and money to earn, sometimes it’s hard to get into a good groove for writing.

But, as I’ve been taught throughout years of macho-male-footy-culture-schooling, it’s that dreams are worth the hard work. They’re worth sweating and vomiting and pulling up sore. Like any muscle, our tap tap tapping fingers and ever-whirling minds need regular exercise in order to work at full capacity.

There have been many articles written over the years about the writing process and so it may seem that all the good advice has already been dished out. What I think is important to consider, though, is that we are no longer working in a purely “writing-focused” way. We are working amongst countless delicate threads in one giant world-web; social media, mass media, surveillance, gaming, film, television, experimental music, clubbing culture, queer culture… the list goes on and on and on. We have never before existed in a time of such… such, mass activity.

And that’s a good thing, to an extent. It allows for an even more “infinite” (if that’s even possible) amount of styles and writings… but it can also become a detriment if not properly managed and balanced. It’s definitely possible to become overwhelmed by creativity.

Meditation and Mindfulness in a World of Netflix

Aah, Netflix. Where would we be without you?

The ability to sit down in front of your computer and access a library of thousands of brilliant films and shows would be considered some form of devilry a couple decades ago. We now have something potentially greater than the Library of Alexandria at our fingertips and we love it. We’re addicted to it. We live it. Romance to it. Binge on it.

Like any addiction though, it can quickly become unfulfilling. If we have too much of a good thing, we begin to forget that we’ve got a good thing at all. We just see Netflix (and, of course, the Internet in general) as a part of nature rather than an incredible privilege that modern technology has allowed us.

Not that I’m saying we should start living ascetic TV-free lifestyles, but maybe when you’re trying to get into the writing groove it’s probably best to close the laptop for a while. By taking time out of the day to sit back in silence, without distractions from Netflix, Facebook or Snapchat, we can start to appreciate these things again. We can reflect on the show we’ve just watched instead of jumping straight back into another series and forgetting all about it.

The media binge can be great for the creative brain, opening up unused synapses and kick-starting ideas, but too much of a good thing is still too much. We need time to reflect on and appreciate our favourite shows, games and books. Spend time reading, watching and thinking rather than just “consuming”.

500 Words a Day of Gushing

The most often repeated (and most important) piece of writing advice ever is probably “write every day”.

And it’s a damn good piece of advice. Like I said before, our writing muscles need regular work outs. You don’t have to go overboard, you don’t have to punish yourself, just gush 500 words a day. It doesn’t need to make sense, it doesn’t need to be publishable, it just needs to exist.

Carrying around a notebook is a great way to write your 500 words a day. You can sit down anywhere, whip your ruffled pages out of some hidden pocket or purse and just jot down anything and everything you see. Of course, if you want to be a true contemporary writer cum cyber-punk secret-agent, you can also do the same thing on your phone.

My notebook is entirely digital, spread across my computer and phone, and I really think this is helpful. Sure, you don’t get quite the same high as scribbling on paper, but digital notebooks can come with you everywhere, especially now we’re constantly surrounded by “The Cloud” (ominous, isn’t it?). Just be sure to print out your notes occasionally. We don’t want any random computer stuff-ups to result in us losing your beautiful words.

Of course, it must be noted than some people can’t possibly keep up this practice. For whatever reason – lack of notebook/phone, disability or mental health issue – some people just can’t exercise regularly, just as some people can’t physically run around an oval with 5kg weights everyday (*cough* me *cough*). So don’t be discouraged if you can’t. You’ll find your speed at some point, even if it ends up being more sporadic than the “experts” would say. All of these pieces of advice are simply opinions on best practice. 500 words isn’t a set rule of nature.

Comfort Food

If none of the above work, absinthe is helpful*… or maybe something a bit healthier, like coffee or tea or chocolate. Everyone’s got their little comfort food to help them through tough times. Like Netflix though, never let it become a vice or crutch.

*Drink responsibly 👍

A Meeting of the Minds

I’d absolutely love to hear from you beautiful readers on this issue. What are some of the challenges you face in writing in a contemporary, media-centric, Western setting? What are some of your tips and tactics for facing these challenges? What can we learn from each other?

Please feel free to comment below or on Twitter at @digitalwir. I’d like to keep this discussion open and going. Who knows, maybe we can solve the great digital writing problems of our time in these short six weeks?

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