My first book was written in pencil on yellow legal pads. My only distractions (I say that like they were a minor distraction) were three little kids under five. All my research was done at the library and what I didn’t know, I made up. Luckily for everyone, that book is lurking somewhere that the sun no longer shines. Even I don’t want to look at just how awful it probably was. My next book was penned, so to speak, on a computer, and I did have a dial-up email account, but the research for that was still done either in libraries or books I purchased and devoured at home. That second book was completed in thirty days. All 92,000 words. I lived in that book. I ate, drank, slept and dreamed that book for thirty uninterrupted days. By then I was a widow, the last of my kids was off to college and I’d just been laid off and remained out of work for ten months. There were NO distractions. My only breaks were when I sat down to share with my critique partner.
Compare that with the book I’m writing now. In between that book and this, about ten manuscripts later, I’ve graduated down to a laptop that goes everywhere with me, I have high speed Internet WiFi, and Facebook happened. In many ways all the endless easy access we have today is a good thing. I can research just about anything right from my laptop here at home, in the airport, or on the beach. I can visit libraries I’d never be able to get to physically and find arcane bits of trivia from just about any era. I can learn how a composting toilet works, or how swords were made in the middle ages. A few clicks of the mouse and I have the line-up for the Boston Red Sox game played on September 7th in 1970, all the gory details of the OJ Simpson trial or who became King of England after the Battle of Hastings in 1066. I can even call up satellite maps and photos so I know just what things look like. It’s mind-boggling and amazing. How did I ever write anything without it?
On the other hand, all this connectivity is distracting. When I first started writing on a computer, if I stared at my work-in-progress long enough and nothing happened, I could hop over and play a game of solitaire or ten. There were other distractions like Sammy the Snake (I know, now I’m dating myself) but on the whole that palled relatively quickly and I was back to staring at my half written manuscript waiting for ideas and words to percolate onto the page. My characters and their problems were so much easier to stay involved with. Today is so very different.
Every day I jump out of bed with the idea that I am going to get soooo much written today. I scramble into some clothes and take the dog for a walk, then make my breakfast and carry it to my study. I’ll read my email while I eat. But reading the email is just the beginning. Then I have to check Facebook. And sometimes Goodreads, or Pinterest or God knows there are so many places to check. Friends post links to interesting books I might want to buy, or clips and videos I just have to see. There are blogs to read and interesting articles about just about anything. Next thing I know, my stomach is telling me it’s hungry. How on earth did it get to be 2:30 in the afternoon already??? Where did that whole long pristine day go? I haven’t even opened up my WIP yet. And the dog wants to go for another walk. The tide is out and the beach is calling. Lunch is calling, too. By the time all these things are taken care of, it’s late afternoon and the day is more than half gone.
The saving grace for me is that the hours between four pm and ten pm are my most productive hours anyway. But I still have to discipline myself to disconnect from the internet and pay attention. My laptop has a function that puts all that stuff in the background and even stifles the little dings that normally tell me I have mail, or someone’s posted to my FB page. I just have to turn it on. AND leave my smartphone out of earshot and out of sight. My phone has even more distractions than my laptop.
There’s good and bad in everything and the Internet is no different. For a writer, it can be the biggest boon with enormous potential, helping to expand our platform and learn about our craft. But it can also be the biggest distraction.
Well said, Skye. I totally agree that while the Internet is a huge benefit for all writers, it's an even bigger distraction. My personal nemesis is Pogo.
Posted by Elizabeth Sinclair on 02/01/2014 - 10:42 AM
My latest distraction is a game my son introduced me to called Quizup. It's an app on my phone - a game similar to Trivial Pursuit, but with hundreds of categories and players all over the world. It's why I leave my phone in the other room when I'm writing.