This guest post is by Janek Makulec of paylane.
Blogging is actually a set of activities, but writing is always fundamental. Promoting your blog or presenting an outstanding layout is one thing, but you always have to offer good content first. Otherwise, the best you can achieve is being “the master of the form.”
What’s wrong with a computer?
Nothing, of course. People are the problem here, computers are just tools. It’s our psychology, the human nature.
So what should we use, if not a computer? There’s no good general answer. It depends on what you prefer. My choices are: pens and pencils, paper, a typewriter, and brains.
Whoa! Is it 1940 or something? Where do you even get a typewriter from?
Okay, such reaction is surely understandable, but let me explain how I find such “oldschool writing methods” more effective and easier to use.
Improving your style
There’s a well-known story about F. Nietzsche. It’s said that when he got himself a new typewriter and learned to use it, his writing style changed. It became more concise.
Of course typewriters or pens (like computers, text editors, etc.) are just tools, but it’s not like they’re not altering our writing style. When you can add, delete, or copy and paste every sentence or paragraph with pretty much no effort whatsoever, you stop concentrating. You lose your self-discipline.
Having the comfort of going back any time, repairing something, and keeping such corrections untraceable makes your mind more likely to lose focus. Less concentration means less creativity, and worse writing. And you’re done, thank you very much—there’s the door.
Furthermore, it’s more likely you’re going to write longer pieces, which are usually … well, boring. People would rather scan web articles than read them—a long text might scare them away. Mark Twain once said “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” He was talking about the very same thing. Writing short pieces is more difficult, but the effects are better. You have to tell the same thing in fewer words, but this way you’ll keep your reader’s attention.
Of course, it’s just a psychological trick. We somehow feel more responsible for what we write directly on paper—there’s physical evidence of what we’ve written. But if it works, why not use such a fact?
Getting rid of distractions
A computer is the greatest digital distraction center, especially when connected to the Internet (which is every computer nowadays). And I’m sure that’s obvious.
Of course you can turn off all notifications, and even disconnect, but be honest (not to me—to yourself): will you really be able not to think about checking your email or Twitter until you finish your work? You’re always one click away from doing this. Why keep being tempted or get distracted and waste time?
There’s no minesweeper or Facebook on a piece of paper! Turn off your computer and just write. Do you even remember what your handwriting looks like? I mean apart from your signature on the credit card!
The worst thing that may happen to you here is that you either have a pen that shows a lady getting undressed when it’s turned upside down, or you start drawing silly stuff. If you do, get a typewriter—there’s no drawing there. And it requires you to concentrate more on the writing itself, which is another advantage.
Of course there are fullscreen text editors that turn off all notifications and are supposed to keep you concentrated on your writing. There are even ones that simulate a typewriter. If this works for you, great! You’re one of the lucky ones. But if you have to use your will and fight not to use Alt+Tab, try a pen instead of a keyboard.
Fewer mistakes, better quality
I assume you’ve read some articles on proofing and correcting—you can find such posts right here on problogger.net. It’s very important to reread your texts—you always find something to correct.
But it’s even better to rewrite it. Even a few times, if it helps. Leo Tolstoj rewrote War and Peace seven times (my edition of this book is ~1600 pages). But it was simply worth it.
So here’s the trick—if you write the first version on paper, you’ll be forced to rewrite it. And that’s it. Nothing fancy, but honestly, how often do you rewrite a blog post? You probably read it once or twice, edit it, and hit Publish. Maybe you even wait a day or two before that. That’s good, but I’m saying there’s a good chance to make it even better. If you won’t rewrite your text strictly mechanically, you’ll probably have better results.
Creativity and motivation
Yes, you can even affect your thinking with the tools you use—not any particular ones, but with a variety.
Whenever you create a habit, you lose a part of your creative thinking. Or you show your brain how to do so—just work out a rule that works, and repeat it. This way, nothing new will ever happen, only a routine will be born.
Try to write with a pen in a red notepad, another time use a typewriter, later make notes with a 2B pencil on a lined (or maybe plain) piece of paper, then make an exception and use a computer…
This way, each time you write something, it’s different, and it makes you feel like you’re attempting something new. It doesn’t matter how silly all this may sound, the important thing is whether it works for you.
There’s one last advantage of writing with your computer turned off. Eyes. If you’re blogging (which means doing research, commenting, using social media, etc.) and spending much time in front of the monitor, you should use every opportunity to take a break from the screen.
What tricks do you use to mix up your blogging? Share them with us in the comments.