According to Professor David M. Levy of the University of Washington, the problem is not technology. Rather, we need to learn how to discipline our minds to be attentive in spite of technological distractions. This Chronicle of Higher Education article details how Professor Levy uses 15 minute meditation periods to help his students practice mindfulness.
"So many of those debates fail to even acknowledge or realize that we can educate ourselves, even in the digital era, to be more attentive," he says.
The good news, however, is you do not have to rely on inspiration or divine intervention to get a paper written.
Unlike Professor Levy, I am suggesting a more active form of meditation prior to writing. Before you even sit down to work on a paper, take 15-30 minutes to review the assignment prompt and just start writing. Write anything that comes to mind, including bullet points, questions, and possible sources to check. Make sure to consider arguments and counter-arguments if you are expected to take a stance.
When time is up, review your initial response. Is there an argument in there? If so, it becomes your thesis. If not, turn to your questions. Use these as research prompts, to help you formulate your position. Look up the sources of interest before writing, since they will usually help you be specific and detailed in your paper.
Then you can sit down to start the paper. By now you have a mental roadmap of where your paper is heading.
Mindful writing requires two main steps for most of us:
1. Unplug from all distractions (even email!).
2. Devote a block of time to just thinking about the paper.
Mindful writing is not intuitive for most of us. We are busy and used to dividing our attention to several things at once. Give it a try, or contact me for further help. Writing can be efficient if you start with a rough outline. Then you can get back to "liking" your friend's vacation pictures on Facebook.