Friday, April 24, 2009

Internet Versus Writing - Round One...


Once upon a time I got a laptop from The Husband. Now, before you get on the "What a great husband you have" bandwagon, you should hear the real reason behind my gift.

I wrote Lady Bells by hand – pen and yellow legal pad paper! I was inspired and I wrote like a mad woman. Let it be known that up until that point all my scribbling had been done by hand on yellow legal pad paper (I have plastic containers full of my scribbles). But this one was different. This felt – good! So, I decided I would attempt a second draft. And if I was going to write a second draft, like a real author, then it should be on the computer. Now, follow the logic – a second draft meant I was serious. A second draft would probably turn out perfectly and thus require printing in order to send it away to be published. First draft, second draft, print, mail, publish – so na├»ve.

So, I started to transfer my first draft onto our computer. I quickly learned that this would not be a simple matter of typing up my beautiful prose. I began changing things immediately. I could spend hours on the computer, happily typing away, and making handwritten notes on the changes taking place or the ideas that I would incorporate later. It was brilliant. Until my time on the computer interfered with The Husband’s.

The solution – get The Wife a computer of her own to get her off mine!

I, of course, was thrilled. I copied all my files over to my new, blue laptop and began working on subsequent drafts of Lady Bells. Did you catch that? Drafts! Yeah, the naivete didn’t last long. But, I was happy. I was writing. I was focused. I opened other files and started writing other stories on my trusty laptop. My fingers flew over the keys, words filled the blank white screen – this was what being a writer was all about. Then, The Husband surprised me with another gift. Wireless Internet!

Again, wait for the real reason he did that before you pat him on the back for his generosity and consideration. Since I write historical romance, I needed to do research. And to do that research, I needed to use his computer. That’s another two-minute penalty for interference. Solution – wireless. I was thrilled. Now my computer was complete, my own little office. I signed up for my own e-mail (what author doesn’t have one?), picked a color scheme to my liking, and created a screen saver and wall paper with images I loved (screensaver – my dog, Taz, wallpaper – from Imagechef an old book jacket with The Seduction of Lady Bells on the spine). Perfect.

Not.

The Internet is sucking the life out of my writing! How? Well, here are some of the issues:

Blogs. Wow, do I read a lot of blogs. I love blogs, especially industry blogs. Oh, and new author blogs because I so want to know how they’re feeling, what they’re working on, how much they’re enjoying the life of a newly published author. There’s also the blogs of unpublished authors, just like me – I want to read their struggles, share with them the dream to some day be published. These include the blogs of our dear friends who visit this blog everyday. And with every blog I read I find new blogs to link to through the comment section. Just reading blogs could fill my day completely.

E-Mail. How many times does one have to click on the ‘send/receive’ icon to be considered OCD? If I walked to the post office to check my mail box as many times as I click that silly little button, I’d be in tiptop shape. And then if I get an e-mail, I have to read it, and then I have to answer it – immediately.

Research. I know – that’s why I got wireless. And I’m grateful. But the problem is when I start with one question, one curiosity, the Internet leads me on a journey with no end. Hours can be spent learning a multitude of useless information, link after link after link. And just when I think my head will explode with all that knowledge, there’s one more link!

Games. Staring at a blank, white screen waiting for inspiration is not fun. So, while I’m waiting I’ll just click on the Internet and play a game of Suduko – the number cousin to crossword puzzles. But maybe my mind isn’t into that, so an actual crossword puzzle will satisfy (and I can justify this one because I’m expanding my vocabulary and discovering synonyms that will make my writing more exciting – you know, when I get back to writing). Sometimes, though, I just need a quick fix, so I go to the old standby – Solitaire. And I hate it when I can’t finish, so I keep re-dealing until I can.

Then, there are my good friends here on the Prairies. They offer up suggestions like Random Generators, Readability Stats, Online Classes, Self-Promotion (for when I get published), Research Sites (over and above those I have bookmarked), Inspirational Quotes (thinking I’ll be motivated to go back to my word document), Organizational Tips, and Idea Sites (in case my problem is a lack of ideas). Yeah, with friends like that…

So, People of Blogland, does the Internet suck the life out of your writing? How do you manage your time online? What are some of your favorite online time wasters? And how many of you click that little ‘send/receive’ button compulsively?

Janet (who thanks Anita for inspiring this blogpost idea – Readability Ease: 74.7, Grade Level: 5.9)

33 comments:

Captain Hook said...

Actually, the net doesn't. Real life does. When things are particularly stressful (like the past year), I have difficulty concentrating on writing because I'm trying to make the story have an HEA and my emotions just don't match that.

The only net thing that will distract me is IMing, and then only with certain people (not telling who :)).

Janet C. said...

Stay tuned, Cap't, I have Real Life Versus Writing coming up soon!

And I agree with your comment. I believe our emotions come through in our writing - so if we're down, stressed, angry it's going to seep into our writing. I've written some very dark things that realy don't translate well into romance!

I won't ask you about your IMing partners. I know that can be a real distraction, too. I try hard to control using it constantly because I know the people on the other end are busy writing (or should be :)

Captain Hook said...

BTW, another major sudoku fan over here :) Have you ever tried Kakuro? Much more challenging than sudoku. You really neeed math skills for it.

Helena said...

HOW RIGHT YOU ARE!!!

Sorry. I had to shout my comment. What a vicious circle we get into as writers. We acquire all the neat gadgets, learn all the latest techniques, hop from site to site on the web, carry the laptop from the upstairs writing gable (my most precious writerly spot) and sit in my living room where I ...

... do all the things you've mentioned, except WRITE! Grrr

(Sorry, Janet, just got caught up in the emotion of your post. You've hit the nail on the head again, as you usually do. I hope you have some solutions for us in the next installment.)

Karen said...

I also suffer from OCD send/receive button tapping and checking of this blog. Other then that I've really slashed my blog lurking to almost nil, which I feel bad about but had to do. Lurking was taking up to much time.

And yes, yesterday was interesting. I had a lot of fun checking readibililty stats and watching them change. So I had to get strict with myself and stop.

I'm not a big fan of research so that's generally not a problem. Ditt online games. Now Facebook, that's a whole other story. And I know I'm having a bad day when I spend a lot of time checking favorite author sites and reading new excerpts. And I'm having a really bad day when I decide to surf the net looking at pictures of people who might look like my characters.

Look forward to the Real Life verses Writing post because I find that more distracting than anything.

Silver James said...

Blogs. Definitely. IMing with friends. Blogs. Researching on...YouTube. Oh! Did I mention blogs?

I try to limit myself, which is why I often don't come back to reply again. First thing in the morning, I get coffee. First cup is sorting, deleting, and answering email. Second cup is reserved for blogs. Third cup, I open the WIP or the WIR (Work in Revisions) and get busy. Afternoons, I go back on line to IM with far-flung friends and pretend that I'm also working.

Sprinkled in there are chores, errands, RL stuffs...

Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Live Journal...Uhm...yeah. Though I don't Twitter, Facebook I'm on only every other day or so (usually while IMing), and LJ gets read with the blogs. MySpace...I'm only there about once a month.

Good thing I'm on vacation this week. I can surf guilt free.

Janet C. said...

Oh, crap - now I'm going to have to check out Kakuro. Thanks, Cap't!

Janet C. said...

Helena - I, too, move around with my laptop. Unfortunately, the Internet just tags along.

And I really do hope I find some solutions for this and when real life kickboxes my writing right out of the ring. Stay tuned - no guarantees, but hopefully, it'll be entertaining :)

Janet C. said...

I'm glad I'm not alone in my affliction, Karen. Is there an online group we could join? Ha!

And I've been thinking of pulling back on by blog reading - restricting that activity to lull times at the office. My OCD kicks in when I comment and then have to keep checking back to see if anyone commented on my comment. A vicious, vicious cycle.

Speaking of pictures - did you check out Erika's blog yesterday? Yummy.

Captain Hook said...

:)

Janet C. said...

I hope you're enjoying your virtual surfing, Silver. Knowing that you're in Florida - have you tried the other surfing?

It sounds like you've got a great system. Organized Internet usage. I think maybe it's time I set myself up a schedule. Then maybe I can get some writing done.

I hope you had a great vacation - safe drive home :)

ban said...

guilty ... blogs, checking back for updated comments, research, art sites !!! i have myspace and facebook but i'm hardly on those at all. use the first for publicity and the second to share photos with far away friends and family. never been too much into computor games but then again, i get my share of xbox at night once the girls are put to bed :) (ps: hayley, i commented after you the other day - speaking of gaelic names "you should hear boys with video gamer IQs try to pronounce my name" ... :D )
where was i ... oh yeah, distractions - another favorite of mine is to read reviews of books on amazon then jump to linked books, read their reviews, jump to others etc. etc. then buy none of them 'cause i already have a bookshelf full of unread ones waiting. now, off to write my next post but i'll be back to see if you respond :D HA HA !!!

Hayley E. Lavik said...

Blogs definitely got in my way for a while. Not so much a distraction from writing as a delay. First I just had a few and I'd check them along with email when I got up in the morning, you know, get in the writing frame of mind. Then I found more, and more, and eventually it could have taken hours to read through them all.

I stick all my blogs in Google Reader now, and used to go through them in the evening, after I've written. Lately I haven't even bothered, and have a few weeks worth of musings, unboxings, rants, and world-building to catch up on... but I might just mark it all as read. At least I can just browse and pick out the worthwhile ones.

Research has also been a real distraction from the process for me. Searching for the right word for something I haven't properly researched, or finding the right synonym, and then off I go on similar links (especially on Wikipedia, argh). I'm still trying to moderate that, but I force myself more to just stick in the word or vague detail for the moment and maybe mark it with a comment for later. Ideally my writing would end up looking like morse code and I'd fill in all the ... later.

I've got most of the other time sinks hooked to my email so I don't go all over the place checking for updates. I get notified for Eventide comments, etc, so I don't go wandering off. Then I have gmail notifier installed so it alerts me when mail comes in rather than deterring me to check it over and over. Of course that doesn't resolve the distraction of reading and replying to mail, but at least I know when it's there.

Janet C. said...

Hey, ban, I'm commenting :) Come on back!

I don't want to get started reading reviews - so I won't go there. But it brings up another issue - if I'm not writing, I should be reading. So, the Internet sucks the life out of my reading as well.

Rotten Internet - I curse you!

Molli said...

I'm easily lured into the e-world, to the detriment of just about anything else I'm supposed to be doing, so I can relate. For me, though, I had to come up with something because it can be as much a problem at work, too, if only from the perspective of continuous emails.

I gave myself a time limit, and a timeframe, for access and it made a difference (although honestly compels me to admit I don't always adhere to them). At work I check emails three times a day, deal with what I can immediately, and b/f the rest for action at an appropriate time. At home, if I haven't been at work that day I allow myself to check email and the two blogs I follow (can you guess which they'd be?) twice a day; I cut that down to once if I've been at work.

I guess the key is I set myself a limit, and when I go over I do it consciously which means I'm making a deliberate choice, and that requires me to weigh the consequences rather than allowing me to ignore them.

Now I have to admit to being unable to decipher the acronyms OCD and HEA, so hopefully someone will help me out with that and I'll find out when I check in again this evening. Which reminds me, I could also use some education on what I gather are Wickipedia (?) symbols, e.g. :), which I think means smile.

Also, Hayley, how do you set up a comment notification? That sounds very useful.

Janet C. said...

I remember reading your comments about a 'Blog Purge'. Please forgive me if I got that wrong - that's the other problem with reading way too many blogs. I find something really great, find a need to either quote from it or link to it so others can be equally enlightened or educated, and then forget where I saw it. I actually go looking - through all the mazes and blogs that I've travelled. This is great for memory work (you know, to beat Old Timers) not so great for time management :)

I commend you for your diligence. I need to seriously look at a 'purge' myself.

Already my mind is balking - 'But what about all your new Internet friends? What about all the fantastic information you'll miss by not reading THAT blog?' My mind needs to shut up!

Speaking of great blog posts - check out Bookends Blog on queries and this post from Murdereti for inspiration. Hey - if I'm procrastinating, so can you :)

Janet C. said...

Great advice, Molli. I find, though, that the older I get, the less I follow through on self-consequences. Example:

Janet - I'll only look at 4 blogs, a little break, and then get right back to it.
Looks at 4 blogs and then sees a comment from an interesting profile (say Screamingguppy - who has a great blog).
Janet - I'll just check this out, then back to work.
Finds the blog interesting and educational - continues to read.
Janet - you should get back to work now.
Janet - Yeah, or what?
Janet - You're not going to get that scene written.
Janet - Yeah, and that would make a difference to whom?
Janet - Good point.

FYI - I have the same issue with potato chips and exercise :) (smiling face). I should maybe work on that (and get some counseling with my multiple personalities).

OCD - obsessive compulsive disorder
HEA - Happily Ever After
Wikipedia - online encyclopedia extraordinaire
:( - sad face
;) - winky face
k* - fingers moved on keyboard, should be smiley face.

Hayley E. Lavik said...

Molli,

If you want notifications on a specific thread (say, when you post) you can click "email follow-up comments to..." in the checkbox below the word verification here, and then every time someone comments it will come to your inbox. If you want notification on comments for every post, you can add it in the blogger settings (or whoever has admin rights can add your email). Likewise for the private blog. I had to set notify on my character interviews so I'd stop compulsively checking for new questions.

Hayley E. Lavik said...

Janet, you're not mistaken. I talked about blog purging on Ban's blog a while ago.

Also, this has to be the funkiest word verification I've had in a while: ressesse

Karen said...

If I remember recorrectly one very wise lady once chased me off Facebook with instructions to quite stalling and get back to writing.

BTW - I'm going into Hugh and Mena withdrawal!

Karen said...

Are we still supposed to be posting new character questions?

Silver James said...

Ha! My verification word is "womedi". D'huh? Do any of you "play" with the verification words? I mean, that could be an alien species, the name of a tribal character, or some strange food stuff. Just sayin'...

Janet, we're in central Florida, about equi-distant from either coast and trust me, no one wants to see me in a wet suit surfing! I'll be home Sunday night and back on track on Monday morning. Deadline crunch is coming so I'm REALLY going to have to get disciplined about my time. Hopefully, being out of 'net range for 48 hours will help with the addiction.

Janet C. said...

Love word verification - for example my WV right now is 'gazeings' - a perfect word to describe my resistance to white screen blindness :) And ressesse is perfect for the breaks you take from writing.

Where were you about a month and a half ago when I only just discovered the little 'e-mail comments' option on blogs? Sometimes things just buzz right past me.

Karen - I'm very good at ordering other people around. Myself - not so much :) And funny you should mention Lady Bells - I'm going e-mail you when I get home.

Character interviews - do we want to continue? I thought I would post a one-sheet exercise after the meeting - work into query letter blurbs (to tie in with the title work we did). I'll ask for opinions at the meeting tomorrow.

Silver - central Florida explains the steak issue. I couldn't figure out why you weren't feasting on fish being you were near the ocean.

I think that having deadlines would help a writer with discipline. This typing away with no real incentive to finish (still smarting from the rejection, maybe?) is tough. Again, offer's there if you need someone to look over a scene or two. Good luck with the work - and Internet withdrawals :)

Karen said...

Never mind, reread Hayley's comment and got it right this time.

connie said...

Hi Janet,
What a wonderful person I am. I don't get distracted by blogs.I only read our two blogs EXCEPT YOU GUYS ARE CORRUPTING ME! All those great blog addresses you include...
Fortunately, I am a major procrastinator (or is it I work best under pressure? No it isn't)Anyway, I haven't gotten into most of them yet. Still a virgin, so to speak.
I create books all day long. Regrettably, I am nowhere near a computer when I do so. I should jot them down, even if at the bottom of the grocery list. But I don't. 'Brilliant work'. Lost.
My downfalls lie in dictionaries and encyclopedias. I can't stop until I fall face first into one, which is how I know Alexander the Great's horse was named Buccepheles and General Robt E Lee's was Topper.
IMing. Oh yes. One of my best friends lives in Germany so we talk in the afternoons. And I have been providing excellent excuses for you by learning the blog biz.
I reward myself with one (yeah, just one - Right!) game before I write and one after.
Guilt. It's a paralyser. I know I should revise my wip but I haven't in months. I am really depressed lately and that doesn't help. (I could get out of it easily enough, but murder is illegal).
Oh, and I can't pass a comfortable chair with a book near it.
That is why all you young chicks will be old and feeble before you get to read my books - IF I ever even get one as far as the mailbox.
Off Topic. If you want to protect your rights to a manuscript, send a copy, registered mail, to yourself and don't open it.
Lengthily your's,
connie

connie said...

Janet - the nice thing about Old Timers is that you can go home and forget it
connie

Janet C. said...

Connie, nice to see you! I, too, come up with brilliant ideas, fixes to my WIP problems, great dialogue - all when I'm not sitting at my computer. I've taken to carrying a notebook everywhere - and having various stashed in areas that I might need one (glove compartment, bedroom, etc).

Murder is illegal, but writing about murder is not. That's all I'm saying.

Jana Richards said...

Hi Janet,
Between you and Connie I'm laughing myself silly.

Personally, I get my best ideas in the shower. I'd write them down but the paper keeps getting wet.

I read some blogs, I love email, and like everyone's said research can turn into a black hole. But for me real life stuff is still more distracting. That and TV. TV is the thing that I reward myself with for being a good girl. I'm looking forward to your blog about real life distractions.

The times I've worked the hardest and the fastest were times I was faced with serious writing deadlines I had to meet. Nothing like fear to get you moving. Same goes with the blogs. If I don't have something ready on Monday mornings, I've let the whole team down. Yikes! Must write. Like I told you before, I do my best work when someone else gives me a deadline. My own are too easily broken.

Jana

connie said...

Janet - two great ideas thanks.
I might get so into writing a murder it would be so realistic, publishers would fall all over themselves to put it in print! Or not!
Notebooks - gotcha.
The bathroom renovations are DONE -almost, so we should be able to find carpets, dresser tops, table tops again and I will have places to put notebooks!
Jana - having a deadline is the only thing that keeps in business as a columnist. I need somebody to threaten me with dire, dire consequences and then I can work like bobody's business. Volunteers?
connie
p.s. Hayley thank you. I now have email notices of comments. Maybe you should write a blog, hold a class at a meeting or the Meunster thing teaching us useful computer stuff.

Janet C. said...

Hey, Jana - about the shower, ban gave me a great idea. Finger paints! Whenever Muse is inspired, I'm ready :)

TV's not a distraction because we don't get cable or satellite. And the reception's so poor, well it hurts the eyes to watch for too long.

Maybe I need deadlines - not self-imposed. You're right about the blog; I know I have to get it written. I might be calling on you to impose some deadlines for me - so you crack the whip like I do for you.

Janet C. said...

Connie - I'm glad your bathroom renos are done. Very stressful time indeed.

Maybe we need to impose some deadlines on those willing to play along (SRW). Maybe we need to have a May Blitz - just like BIAW - leading up to our retreat. Just putting that out there...

Prairie Chicks Write Romance said...

Hey Janet, great post! lol

As many of you know, I've been on internet restriction this month while getting my taxes done. And I handed them in today, yay! That means I can get back to my regular surfing - er - writing pattern. I usually follow a bloglist and it's been horrible staying away.

I don't play online games, however, I do spend time in research. This month while doing the taxes, I found myself searching for new blogger templates for one of my projects, our church blog, which explains why the taxes were just handed in today. But, I've got the new church blog perfected on my 'simulation' site and will have it online within the week. Time well spent. I guess I figured I could play as long as I was doing the Lord's work, eh. Talk about twisting things for my own benefit.

I don't click the send/rec button because I have my email set up so that everything shows up as a little blue box on the bottom right of my screen as it comes in. Sometimes an email will catch my eye, usually I'll think, that's nice and ignore it. The only time I respond immed is on Thurs when it's my blog day. And even then, it doesn't work unless I remember to check off the box to be informed of future comments.

Of course, emails from friends especially my author friends and fellow Chicks get responded to right away as well because, well you know, friends are very important to a lonely writer...

Oh, and emails and IM's from my CP's must be taken care of without hesitation...

Anita Mae Draper said...

Oops - that last comment was from me - I was on our google calendar awhile ago and hadn't realized I didn't change blogger accounts.

Anyway, I forgot to add I spend a lot of time on my own blog and answering comments on its duplicate over at the eharl site.

Also, reading/commenting on the eharl forums which I haven't done this month either. I looked at one and there were 300 new msgs! Jeepers! Won't get caught up on those. But so many are about the writing industry and they fill a part of my soul, you know?

And Jeeze Karen, you're restricting your blog surfing but you sent me a friend request for MySpace? I don't even like MySpace! LOL