Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Enjoy the Silence

Quote: “Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.”
Gloria Steinem

Song Playing: Wasting My Time--Default

Well, I had intended to post regularly starting last Monday, but a spyware virus rampaging through my laptop greatly impeded my Internet abilities. We (read: my husband) had to reboot the computer with the recovery disks, which gave me ample time to think about what I wanted to post about today.

I was without the Internet (our cabin didn’t have wifi) for almost an entire week while I was getting married/on my honeymoon. And now more recently, the past week.

It was strangely relaxing. Of course, I was busy getting married and having an awesome honeymoon (part of which was spent watching the sharks in the aquarium we visited. Man, I love aquariums. Seriously, these sharks had rows and rows of long, jagged teeth.) but some of that time was spent relaxing on the couch with my laptop, working on my writing stuff.

Without the Internet, I wasn’t distracted by the lure of the blogs, and the siren’s call of Wikipedia and Google fell on my deaf ears. It was glorious. I just sat down and I wrote. I didn’t check my email five times, or my blog, or any of that.

Don’t get me wrong, I think the Internet is a fabulous resource and tool for authors. I have learned more about the publishing industry, and agents, and the proper way of going about getting published in the two years I have spend doing my homework than I feel I would have doing it the old fashioned way of looking all of it up in possibly outdated books.

I also think a writer who ignores the publishing world is at a great deficit to the writer who pays attention to the various industry blogs, and knows what’s going on in the world of publishing. At the very least, writers like me who follow the industry knows what to expect once they get published, better than writers who don’t pay attention to publishing until they are actively trying to get published.

In addition to all of that, the Internet is a great research tool for me whether it’s IPA pronunciation or the migration patterns of hermit crabs (don’t ask).

But I was without the Internet for a week, and I am still alive. I think the writing I did over that time benefited from the lack of distraction. Writing became what it has always been about for me: the words. The people. The worlds. I was able to shut away my fears and doubts about publishing and queries, and I stepped out of the fast paced world of publishing to focus on my craft. It was exhilarating.

These thoughts have lead me to the conclusion that the Internet is like one of the artifacts of massive power you see in cheesy 80’s fantasy movies like “Krull” or “The Dark Crystal.” The Internet (or Internets as I affectionately refer to it as around here) can be used for great good, but also great evil.

You can research almost anything, but you have to double check your sources to make sure you aren’t reading false information. You also have to make sure your “research” phase of the book doesn’t take longer than it should, no matter if you wait to do your research until after the book is written, or before.

You can read agent and publisher and marketers and all other sorts of “-ers” in the publishing industry, and get up to the minute updates on the status of what the submission guidelines are, whether the agent is accepting queries or not, and how they want the queries formatting. There are awesome sites like QueryChecker where you can form an online database of your queries, and look up an agent’s individual query stats. It’s all there, ripe for the picking.

But it can also make you neurotic with worry. You can lay awake wondering if you’re going to make a mistake, sure that you’ll forget to query the agent that could have been “the one”, and in general, drive yourself bonkers with all of the advice out there for authors, much of it contradictory.

Sometimes reading all those blog articles can amount to so much noise in your head, crowding out the real reason why you’re bothering with all of this anyway: your book.

When you sit down to write your book, if you think about the Internet, and all of the stuff you have read, all of the wonderful advice from Nathan Bransford, and Janet Reid, and Anne Mini, and Holly Lisle, you will drive yourself crazy. It’s like having another set of editors in your head—your personal editor and the editor of the Internet, those blogs you’ve tried to read and internalize.

You can’t worry about any of that while writing. You need to find your quiet place, whether it’s at a desk (like me), or a train, or a mountain top or wherever your writing space happens to be. During your allotted writing time, I think you need to just think about the book and nothing else. The publishing industry and the Internet can wait. Your dog might not be able to wait, so you’ll have to schedule time for him, and probably the kids or husband or wife or the mailman you’ve had your eye on will all need some of your time.

But for your writing time, whether you’ve allotted three hours or three days, I think you could do worse than disable the Internet and shut off the TV. I have been reading Anne Mini’s blog lately, which is a remarkable treasure trove for all kinds of information, and she made a statement that has stuck with me. Since I have been reading her backlog, so I have absolutely no idea which post she mentioned this, so forgive me for paraphrasing (I am pretty sure it’s in a post under the tag “Finding More Writing Time”). She said you only have so much time on this Earth. Only so many hours in a given day, week, month, only so many years. A lot of people don’t realize how much time they whittle away on nothing. On the TV, they turn it on “just to see what’s on” and spend hours not even watching something they really care about. At some point you’re going to have to prioritize and protect your writing time. You have to say, “Would I rather watch every episode of The Simpsons, or would I rather write another book?”

End of my terrible paraphrase. Now, I am not saying TV is evil, and you should never watch it. Heaven knows I have a few TV shows that I watch religiously. But I love the idea of deciding to spend your time consciously. Instead of sitting in front of the TV or surfing the Internet, or whatever other activities you do that are time wasters, and letting hours pass, hours that you will never get back, you could make a choice. You could say, “I want to watch something at 7” and work on your writing until then. Or if you know you have to go to your parent’s house, you could schedule your writing time around it, instead of just killing time before you have to leave.

So today I urge you to go forth and protect your writing time, and also devote yourself to it. Try to shut out the voices of the blogs, and the critics, and the fans, and everyone else. While you’re writing, make it just about you, and your book.

Now, there’s the greatest romance ever told!


  1. This is one of the joys of working on a laptop. Most of them will have a function key that lets you turn off your wireless antenna (Fn+2 or Fn+F2 on most laptops). Just look for the little blue antenna with the arcs coming out of it. This is your wireless. I know we don't use the function key a lot (Fn key down by the control and alt keys), but this is what it's good for! You want to write? Turn off your internet and there will be no distractions.

    If I leave mine on, I will inevitably take a "quick" break to check email and then everything falls apart.

    Also, turning off your wireless extends the life of your battery.

  2. We don't have wireless enabled in our house, so when I need to focus, I take my laptop downstairs and work in the comfy chair (comfort is also beneficial to productivity, I think.) Love my laptop - the best present my dh ever gave me. Well, one of the best. (My son and my Klein bottle are up on the list, too.)