distraction no.99

Nova Ren Suma | On Writing & Writing Distractions

Not an Author Newsletter… something else.

The Tricks You Play

I’m working on an important something-something.

I’m close. Close now to the finish. This week it’s all I’m working on.

But I am also only human.

I have urges.

Urges to distract myself to oblivion.

So… at E’s suggestion, I’ve been turning off the wifi access on my laptop before I go to bed so when I restart from sleep first thing in the morning, the internet isn’t reachable. It reminds me not to check my email—or anything else*. I shower, come back out, and still don’t turn wifi back on. I leave the apartment—not having checked email or anything else*—I go to my café, and I write there for some time without allowing myself to go online at all—and then I go to my writing space and do the same, no sense if I have any emails, no sense of anything else*, and this torturous not-knowing goes on for as long as I can stand it—usually until noon. Then I go nuts reading random shit in a burst of speed until I turn the wifi off again. Some days I’m better than others. Today I lasted sans internet till noon on the dot, then spent an entire hour doing nothing worth telling you about. There have been sad days when I click on the wifi to see if any important emails came through during the hours I was away and… zero. There have also been distracting moments, too, where I click it on for, I tell myself, five minutes, and then the emails need answering, freelance jobs calling and otherwise, and I start in on that and then time has passed and I look up to find I’ve followed a labyrinth of links off Twitter and I don’t know who I am anymore.

It’s best to keep it off entirely when I can, so that’s what I’ve been doing. So far, no one has noticed when I disappear. And, so far, I haven’t taken too long to answer an important email that I ended up missing out on something significant.

So you’d think I’d realize how unnecessary it is to be online, right? How it doesn’t matter. How I can answer that email tonight just as well as I can right now…



How did I get like this?

Sometimes I think constant access to the internet is pretty fantastic: I’ve made real, lifelong friends and connected with other writers; I researched and found my agent; I can look up anything I want for inspiration or research at any time; there is so much to learn online, so many ideas to be had… And yet.

When I first started writing we didn’t have all this. I had a dial-up modem during grad school that used the only phone line in the apartment and it wasn’t fair to my roommate to clog it up with a busy signal, so I really wasn’t online much. I never wrote and stayed online at the same time, never. Can you imagine?

Damn, I mean I’m so antiquated, when I was in college looking up MFA programs, the web did not exist in the form we know now… I had to look up the names of those programs in a big book in the basement stacks of the library and mail each school a letter asking for a catalog. Same with sending stories to magazines and looking up literary agencies—you had to get a book for that. You had to really want something to go through the trouble of getting all the info you needed.

Don’t I sound cranky and jaded?

I like the world far better this way, yay internet!, but I wonder if I could get more—and better—writing done if I went back in time, say, I dunno, fifteen years for a few weeks. (This is obviously why people go to writers colonies.)

Anyway, with the wifi off? My something-something is becoming something-pretty-freaking-exciting omg. Back to it.

* Anything else = blog feeds, tweets, status updates, gossip posts, book reviews, publishing updates, pokes and pictures and invites and free first chapters and the whole entire universe, which is out there on the internet for free and can keep you entertained and not-writing your own novel for hours, if you let it.

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4 responses to “The Tricks You Play”

  1. Solution: get dial up once again… Then you’ll be so pissed off about how slow it is, you’ll decide it isn’t worth the time.

    I remember going to college and first experiencing the internet (we must be close in age…) I remember clicking on Netscape and being like, “Holy…” It was a far cry from the pay as you go internet service I had in high school (Prodigy, I think…)

    Nearly 15 years later, I am still pretty amazed by it all.

    • Dial-up! That’s pretty funny… and you know what? It could work. I don’t have the patience for dial-up anymore… I’d basically never go online if that’s all I had. Heh.

  2. I turn my wifi off at night, but it doesn’t prevent me from checking email and other things in the morning. Since I took some time off from places online though, it’s not as bad as it used to be. It’s all about finding balance (which I’m still working on).

    It sounds like you’ve got a good system going. Good luck with your “something-pretty-freaking-exciting omg” new novel! (BTW, that would make a really great title, or at least a funny one.)

  3. kill the internet, imagine that you’re starving, and if you don’t get this in on time, you’re going to die.

    well, it works for me. life-or-death deadlines have a way of focusing the mind, especially if, like me, that mind is essentially insane.

    and i actually bought a mfa book listing all the programs and their merits. way back in 1994. i feel like a fossil.

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