Monday, January 9, 2012

Shouldn't You Be Writing?

... not that I want you go go away and not read my blog. But I don't know any writer (who is online, that is) for whom the internet is not a time sink. The black hole that eats up hours -- days -- of writing. Not to mention leaving us frazzled and dry-eyed. This latter bit is true: when you're staring at a computer screen, you blink less frequently than when you're not, so your eyes get drier. As you age, this effect becomes even more pronounced. So, apart from eye strain (again, more of a problem for older folks), there's that scratchy-eyed feeling as if it's 2 am. This is apart from neck and shoulder strain -- well, you know the ergonomic lament of anyone who sits at a desk all day.

Juliette Wade's blog today is on "the internet as a trap" -- some thoughts on the psychology of how we get locked into online stuff, including what we get out of it -- or think we get out of it -- and some strategies for disconnecting. No, not unplugging. Email, blog sites (like this one!), news sites, social media, are all valuable in their place. So how do we, with our primate brains and addictive natures, manage to keep it all under control?

We can try time management techniques, of course. Check email or compose blog posts only at certain times. Set a timer. (Actually, this is a good idea to remind ourselves to get up and stretch at regular intervals.) Juliette comes up with some strategies I hadn't thought of before, like turning off the sound and expanding the window of our word processors to fill the entire screen so we aren't distracted by "you've got mail" alerts.

Most valuable to me is her insight that "you get out of the internet what you put into it." A version of "quality, not quantity." The shift from passive following of "news" (anything that changes from day to day or minute to minute) to the active creation of content (whether it is a blog post or a comment) can be seen as a writing exercise. If we can stay focused, these things can function as a "warm-up" for our writing day. We can develop internet "places" where we chew over problems, get support for overcoming inertia, trouble-shoot, brainstorm, etc. The trick is to not let these activities expand to fill all available space. A warm-up (or a break) is just that -- and I notice that the scales and exercises I play before my piano practice don't take more than 5 or 10 minutes.

"Becoming ready" to work is an interesting process, different for each of us, I suspect, and changeable over time. For me, the jury is still out as to whether I can use the internet effectively to do this. I'm hoping I can, 'cause I do love hanging out with you guys.

What works for you?

Check out the rest of Juliette's article and her suggestions here

The illo is by Whoee Freek and is in the public domain.

1 comment:

  1. A wonderful little kitchen timer from IKEA ... its my best friend and my worstest enemy!