Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Internet: Friend or Foe?

I find that the internet is a major distraction when writing, whether it’s a useful distraction (with a few clicks on the keyboard, I can research exactly how my character would make those shortbread cookies she’s in the kitchen baking) or a more demonic distraction (check out these funny cat pictures!) And it only took about half an hour of observing my pattern to notice that my tendency to “need” the internet coincided exactly with a moment when my writing turned hard…which, of course, is the time when you most need to sit there and let something come to you.

So, yes, the problem has been acknowledged…but what’s the solution? Unfortunately, my willpower to escape the internet’s siren song is very weak, so I’ve tried a number of ways to break free:

1. I turn it off and choose some arbitrary amount of time to stay internet-free (usually two hours or so). This can work for a while, though there’s some white-knuckling as the clock ticks down, and it seems as though I always find some “reason” to hop back on before my time limit is up: “But I really, really, really need to know NOW what an average time for a high school girl running a 5K on a cross-country team might be.” Sure, maybe I need to know that info eventually, but looking at it NOW means risking getting distracted by random emails from my neighborhood listserve about whether it was a coyote or fox sighted running around…and, of course, the cat pictures.

2. I go to work at the Alexandria library (which I wrote about here). This can be helpful especially if I have work to do on paper instead of the computer (since the library has free wireless). It’s a very intense place (though last week I heard someone snoring steadily for about 45 minutes…but it was quite INTENSE snoring), and the aura in the study carrels is that this is a place of sitting in your chair and working—no breaks. The problem there is that I have to drive to the library and back (30 minutes or so) and then when I return home to my computer, I spend a giant block of time catching up on all the “important” things I’ve missed. So, the net result of time wasted on the internet is probably about the same.

3. Here’s my latest solution, and I think it will work as long as the weather stays nice. I have an old. old, old laptap, bought cheaply many years ago with no features whatsoever (i.e. no wireless). Lately, I’ve been taking that old dinosaur outside to my deck and writing out there. With a clunky laptop balanced in my lap, the urge to get up and walk around is stifled, and the only distractions are the lovely yellow butterflies flitting about the trees. Oh, right…and the internet upstairs on my other computer. But because my environment is so pleasant, I really don’t jump up to check out the cat pictures as much as I do when getting online is a matter of a click or two. The only problem with this approach is that the path into the house leads through the kitchen, so there may be more snacking involved. Oh, and the battery runs out after about two hours (told you it was old, old, old).

So I’m set until winter, but once it gets cold, I need a new solution. Any suggestions? I’m open to anything that works…let me know!


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.