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Five Writing Tasks while the Internet is Down

There’s not much that’s more frustrating than having an unavailable Internet connection.

This goes double or triple for someone like me, whose livelihood (and therefore ability to continue putting food on the table) depends on Internet access.  If my Internet connection is down, I am unable to add content, fix problems, respond to user questions, approve comments, or monitor WritAnon to ensure that the site remains responsive to my users.

If other users have trouble accessing the Internet, they can’t access the content they want, or receive assistance for their writing problems.

So what do I do when my Internet access goes down?

In part, I write a blog post.

When I woke up one morning a few weeks ago, I immediately noticed that I was unable to access the Internet.  My first task was to call my ISP and determine approximately what time I would be able to expect access again.  I was told that connectivity should be restored by 5pm.  I wasn’t pleased with this answer, but at least then I knew what time frame I had to work with.

While I’m dependent on the Internet for income, I certainly have dozens of tasks that can be done without the Internet.  I’ve decided to share a few of those with you today.  You may want to print this off and use it the next time you have Internet connectivity issues.

Oh, and if your Internet access is down, don’t waste your time checking to see if the Internet is back up every 2-3 minutes.  It’s simply not a good use of your time.

Writing task #1:  Finish some smaller tasks

If you’re anything like me, you have several small tasks that you’ve been putting off for days (okay, weeks or months).  For example, some of the tasks I’d been putting off had been finishing the About Us page for WritAnon, redoing the front page of WritAnon to reflect more of the recent changes, and updating some of the service pages to add recommendations on how to best use our services.  Luckily, I keep nightly backups of the code that runs WritAnon, so I was able to make progress on all of these issues.

Take advantage of the extra time to take care of some of the smaller tasks that have been piling up, but still been low on your priority list.  Cleaning up several small tasks helps you feel like you’re effectively using your time without Internet access.

Writing task #2:  Copy over some notebook entries to your computer

I use a notebook that I update daily with new story ideas, short stories, and logs of dreams I have that might be good story elements.  Taking advantage of the time you would be spending checking your email, browsing through various sites, or chatting with friends can allow you to catch up on some notebook cleaning.

Why do I copy these stories or article ideas to the computer?  Storing ideas in a notebook, while tangible and satisfying, is also very difficult to search through. I find it easier to copy the stories to my computer because it allows me to search for the stories later.  Also, I can name files in a way that makes future searches easier.  After filling up notebooks with various ideas, it’s much more difficult to go back later and find the right notebook with the right idea I’m thinking of.

Writing task #3:  Brainstorm ways to include transferred ideas in new stories

After getting back in the mindset of a short story (my story ideas tend to run for 1-3 pages), I often find that there are ways that I can expand what I’ve written to a much larger story, or see ways to take the idea in a different direction.

For example, I might find a character that, while only showing up momentarily in a story idea, becomes very interesting.  I start thinking about their background, and what the events might have been that led up to that moment in the story.  Often, these events take interesting twists that are well worth exploring.

Writing task #4:  Reorganize/prioritize remaining ideas

Now that you’ve copied over some of your ideas, if you’re anything like me, you still have dozens more left that have not been copied over.  Read through them now, and mark the ideas that seem the most promising.

If you’re just getting started with writing stories, or have finished copying all of your ideas on your computer, take some time and start brainstorming some new ideas.  I’ve found that the most effective method for brainstorming is to read through old writing samples and ask myself, “What would be interesting about that?”

Writing task #5:  Focus on your best idea

Out of the ideas that you’ve now prioritized, pick your best one and start writing about it.  By solving the minor tasks first, you’ve already built up a sense of accomplishment, and eliminated some of the tension caused by having those smaller tasks in the back of your mind.  In other words, you’re in an ideal state to create some of your best work.  Take advantage of your momentum and keep writing.

Of course, you don’t have to wait for the next time the Internet is down to start taking advantage of some of these ideas.  You can simulate an outage at any time by unplugging the network cable (or turning off wireless), and getting some more work done, without the distractions the convenience of the Internet provides.

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