For the fifth summer now, I’m taking the month of August off from the internet. What began as a simple week without internet has morphed into a full calendar month without any social media, nor endless links to endless articles, nor obsessive e-mail checking and general time suck. I’ve been looking forward to it all summer.
Don’t get me wrong: I love the internet. I adore Twitter and Buzzfeed, cat videos, Beyoncé memes, Autostraddle articles, Colorlines posts, and weekly Smitten Kitchen recipes. I love Facebook and long e-mail threads with friends about everything from dating to beach plans to teacup pigs. I love Seamless and Songza and all of those crazy, colorful apps and websites that make life awesome.
But I’ve got this one month to write, and I need to hunker down.
There’s something freeing about turning off the metaphorical router for four weeks. Last year I found myself doing so much more reading, and just felt more present than I usually do when I’m tucked into my iPhone, my iPad, my laptop, my work computer. There’s a huge amount of privilege that allows me to take this break: my salary-day-job gives me the month off, and I don’t have a lot of other responsibilities I need to tend to.
The parameters this year are the same: I’ll check my e-mail every Sunday, giving myself thirty minutes to weed the junk (oh, how it’s all junk!) and respond to the (rare) important message. Text messages and phone calls will take the place of constant Gmail refreshing (and my phone will be on airplane mode when I’m writing). All of my internet apps will get dumped into a folder called “Crap” on my iPhone, away from my home screen.
I’ll also have to hop online every once and awhile to turn in a freelance assignment or book review. This summer I’m allowing myself just three apps: Seamless, my banking app, and Google Maps. I’ve cancelled Netflix (because, really, all I’m doing is waiting for House of Cards and Orange Is The New Black to return), and any photos I take will just be more my own enjoyment, and not the insta-gratification of Instagram. (I actually learned that I rarely take any photos at all if not posting them for an immediate audience.)
One large exception to my rules this August is that I’ll post once a week about something too awesome to stay mute about: Out of the Binders: A Symposium on Women Writers Today. This badass conference is taking place in New York on October 11 and 12th, and I’ve hopped on board to help out. Tickets go on sale through Kickstarter next week, so I’ll only break my internet fast to signal boost this badass event. (The rewards will be pretty rad, too, including a Waffle Party Book Club provided by yours truly!)
Every year I apply to writers’ residencies for this precious month off, and while nothing panned out this summer, I’m turning my Brooklyn into a stay-cation sort of residency. Mornings are for writing—in my alcove of an office, at the library, in coffee shops, anywhere—and afternoons are for reading, baking, biking, writing letters. I have a full first draft of my book completed, and next month is all about revising. If I revise two chapters a day, I can get a rewrite done before September, with room to spare. It’s ambitious, but it’s all I’ve got. (Doris Lessing, once more, with feeling: “Whatever you’re meant to do, do it now. The conditions are always impossible.”)
Farewell, beloved internet! If you see me out and about in the world this August, come say hi.
[Rotary phone illustration by Mika Walker]