June 29, 2022

Unplug, disconnect, and disengage

I’ve written some about the creative payoff of disconnecting from Internet, email, and phone. We all know doing so creates space for creativity and productivity, but mostly we think of unplugging as something that would be nice, that we should do. We might even consider it a luxury. In fact, if you can make disconnecting part of your writing practice, you will find that it’s much more than a luxury. It’s an invaluable component of staying on track with your writing goals.

One of the best writing books I’ve read in the past couple years is Jeff Vendermeer’s Booklife. In his book and online, Jeff writes about the difference between white noise and dark noise. While articulating the ways in which white noise holds him back, he writes:

Except it’s not really white noise–it’s more of a dark noise, a noise with a substance and texture like an electric shock or sandpaper. It’s a barrage of positive reviews, negative reviews, good vibes from a contact made, bad vibes from a contact made, anger and irritation and satisfaction and fondness and love originating from a hundred glimpsed or participated in electronic conversations. Taken separately, it’s harmless enough, but all bundled together it equates to a hundred received ideas trying to get into your skull.

This shows how disconnecting is actually about disengaging. For Jeff’s friend, Dan Read, dark noise is random and comes from everywhere, whereas white noise comes from channels. Open channels are things like your blog, a site where you regularly participate and/or post comments or status updates (think Facebook), a collaboration.

Basically, an open channel is something you have to feed. When you don’t, it pulls on you, reminding you it’s hungry or being neglected. It can feel like a “should.” It can make you feel guilty. It can make you feel overwhelmed and burned out. I think anyone who’s engaged online experiences this open-channel overwhelm way more often than we even realize.

We need to support ourselves and one another in our efforts to disconnect, but even more deeply than that, to disengage. Give your creativity space to soar by being conscious of your open channels, and finding ways to pull back or limit them where possible.


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Thanks for reading,



  1. YES! What a great explanation of the open channel as something we have to feed (I got a Little Shop of Horrors image at that) and recognition of what that always-connected obligation does to our minds (not to mention, our writing.) Thanks, Brooke!

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