Once upon a time, in 2004, in a faraway land called Bellingham, WA, where the sky, the earth, and the sea are all the same shade of gray, I got it into my head that I wanted a portable writing device.  I had a desktop at the time and I wanted to be able to write anywhere, whether that meant when I was out of the apartment or just when I was sitting on the couch.  I did a lot of research and discovered the NEC Mobile Pro.  (Which, as you can see if you follow the link, is also gray.)  It was super portable, had an actual keyboard (not full size, but it worked), and it turned on and off instantly, which meant no waiting for my computer to boot up in order to write down any brilliant plot ideas I had at one in the morning.

I got a refurbished one off of eBay.  It had a spot where you could plug in your dial up internet (LOL), and the one I got came with a WiFi card so you could connect to the network, even if it was kind of slow.  But I never ended up using the internet on it.  It was a little tiny box with Pocket Word and a word count meter and almost nothing else.  There were no distractions, and it changed my life.

Or at least my writing life, which was pretty much the same thing.  Not only was it light and portable and I could sit wherever I wanted with it or write in the quiet room at the university library, but I became way more productive.  And it’s not that I’d never experienced periods of high productivity with my writing, even with the internet, but it was so much easier to get into that mode without having the option of turning to distractions every time I got stuck.

In the summer of 2007, the same summer I finally graduated college and the same summer that the last Harry Potter book came out, I wrote The Rise of Renegade X, all on that little computer.  Then, two years later after I’d sold the book and gotten paid for it, I bought a shiny new laptop.  I love my shiny not-so-new-anymore laptop that literally sparkles in the sunlight (there are blue sparkles on the lid, but they only show up in direct sunlight), and at the time I’d badly needed a computer that actually functioned, since my desktop was, on its good days, barely still functioning.

So I got the laptop, and it did all the computery things I wanted it to do, like play games and play videos (with sound! and without blue screening at random times!) and check my email 1,000 times a day.  And gradually I stopped using my MobilePro.  My laptop didn’t have a spot for the sync cable, my MobilePro had no USB ports, and my laptop couldn’t read the card that the MobilePro could actually save to, at least not without hooking up a separate card reader, and the card itself was unreliable and would frequently forget everything that I’d saved on it.

Anyway, since then I’ve been writing exclusively on my laptop, which has about a million distractions on it, including the internet, which I can’t stay away from.  And if it’s not the internet, then it’s Spider Solitaire.  And lately I’ve been especially prone to these distractions and I have a lot of writing projects I’m not making enough progress on, if any.  So I decided it was time to go back to an internet-less computer.

I did tons of research and got this slightly used HP Mini for a great deal on eBay:


This netbook ended up being the perfect combo of everything I wanted.  USB ports, card reader, runs actual Windows (instead of CE) so it can handle Open Office and doesn’t screw up formatting when I’m passing files between computers.  It’s lightweight and gets almost 10 hours off one battery charge and it comes out of hibernating instantly, and the boot up time when I turn it on is super fast, too.  And the keyboard, which you can see in this next picture, is just how I wanted it.  Chicklet style with a hard base.

(As you can see in this pic, I am clearly working hard on The Trials of Renegade X.)

I uninstalled any unnecessary programs, deleted all the games, and left the whole thing not connected to the network.  It has my writing programs and that’s pretty much it.  It’s amazing how big a difference not having those distractions makes!  Instead of being unfocused and looking for ways to procrastinate, I’m actually, you know, working.

Sometimes it pays to know what works best for you.  If the internet is there, I will poke at it.  I won’t be able to leave it alone, and I know this about myself.  And it can make working on my laptop a source of stress.  In contrast, the netbook feels like a quiet, stress-free workspace that is just me and my books and the tools to make them better.


4 Responses to Life Changer – Writing sans Internet

  • Great post.

    I keep toying with seeking out a Netbook for just the reasons you describe…primarily NO DISTRACTIONS.

    My main desktop computer is not only hooked up to the mystical Interwebs (and thus my habitual outlet for Internet time wasters) but it also has piles of games installed (both for myself and for my kids). So there are plenty of temptations to pull my time away…not to mention the fact that my kids often want to play on it instead of me.

    In addition, the computer is not in an isolated location. Far from it. It’s situated in our living room…which is a room for living. This means that there are plenty of non-computer distractions going on. Whether it’s TV, games, horseplay or general conversation, there’s always plenty going on to distract.

    I do try to set aside writing time late at night when the kids won’t be around to play and when nobody’s trying to watch TV. This works generally…but then the computer itself is a distraction due to its nature.

    Anyway, I’m glad to hear about your success with the dedicated writing machine. You’ve motivated me to look into it more for myself.



    • It makes a HUGE difference for me! And being able to go sit in a quiet room to work if I need to helps a lot, too. If there are lots of sounds around me–music, TV, whatever–then I get nothing done.

  • Glad you posted this, because I’m sitting here now in an office that I went into specifically to write and I’m playing Angry Birds, chatting and got Tumblr and Twitter open. My word count suffers. So I’ve been thinking of taking my partner’s netbook that is no longer used, wiping it clean, and then using it as my portable writing machine. It’s just so so hard to write without distraction. But I know I can do it! I used to do it as a kid. Just write for hours. No worries about voice or if I was good enough or what blind item my favorite gossip blog is revealing. Ugh, so distracting!

    • I say go for it! The more I write without the internet, the more into my writing I am, and the more into my writing I am, the less I second guess myself or over analyze the words going onto the page. And the less I’m second guessing myself and doubting my every move, the better my writing is–and more fun!

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