Freedom From the Internet

Jonathan Franzen disables his internet access while writing
Jonathan Franzen disables his internet access while writing

The internet is not the productive writer's best friend.

Although it may be useful for research and for networking with other writers, it's not possible to write anything of meaning if you keep stopping what you are doing to check Facebook, Twitter or your email

Jonathan Franzen, author of Freedom (the book, not the app), is just one high-profile writer who disables his internet access while working.

During a tour for his book (also called Freedom), he described physically removing his WiFi card from his computer and blocking his ethernet port with a broken cable so he could focus on writing.

That's an extreme method for many writers. However, you can use Freedom (the app) to do disable your internet access and become a more productive writer.

The Windows and OSX app shuts off network and internet access for a specified amount of time. The app costs USD10 and it has been praised by authors like Nick Hornby and Zadie Smith and others who are more hesitant than Franzen about wrecking their machines.

Freedom is Easy to Use

Freedom is simple enough for writers to use.

It prompts writers to type their password and specify how long they want to disable internet access and or network access for. Once the user confirms their selection, the only way to restore access is to either reboot the machine or wait until the specified period of time is up.

I use Freedom for writing within blocks of 27 minutes. This may seem like an arbitrary amount but I'm actually using Freedom for the Pomodoro method of productivity. The thinking behind this method of productivity is to work in short blocks of approximately 27 minutes and take little breaks in between.

After four Pomodoros, it's acceptable to take a longer break from whatever you're writing. In other words, I work for 27 minutes and then, after Freedom restores access to the grid, I check my email or Facebook. Four minutes later, I activate Freedom again and get back to work.

It may seem like an extreme method of working but, considering the amount of notifications and distractions built into today's operation systems, it's reassuring to know that I am locked into a Pomodoro and locked out of the time sink that is the internet for 27 minutes at a time.

Taking Breaks

After a couple of months with Freedom, I found I didn't need to use it as often. I'd trained myself to work and ignore the insane need to repeatedly check my email or the latest posts on my favourite online forums.

That said, I still use Freedom occasionally when my willpower is low or when I can feel a temptation to stop what I'm writing and click through my bookmarked websites.

There's a similar app called Anti-Social that shuts off social media websites but I find Freedom to be far more effective as, for me, email is a massive distraction.

The only criticism I have is that the Freedom interface is rather ugly, but Freedom is more about becoming a more productive writer than it is about looking good.

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