Prolificity: Turn it off.

23 February 2006

Want to get more written? Here’s a simple step to take: Disconnect yourself from the Internet.

Radical stuff, I know. I work in front of a computer all day, so I have plenty of time to poke around in the Realm of Mystery and Wonder that is the online world. But it gets to be such a habit–interrupting what I’m doing to look something up, to check e-mail, etc.–that I do it all the time. Maybe you’re the same? Yes?

My best writing time is early in the morning, when my kids are still asleep. Me, my thoughts, and my cup of coffee, we all commune at my kitchen table, and when things are going right, the words flow quite well. But for things to go right, I have to unplug from the Realm of Mystery and Wonder. Sure, I always have some fact to check or detail to find online, but I can jot down my question on a piece of scratch paper (handy stuff, that) and then look it up after my sacred writing time is over. Hitting Wikipedia for a name or a date is a great thing to do while my kids are chomping down breakfast across from me. That setting is not the likeliest one for deep thinking.

For a while I was very good about unhooking myself from the Realm during my writing time. My wireless router is next to my wife’s desk in our bedroom; it’s the simplest thing in the world to unplug it at night before I go to bed or first thing in the morning. After that, I could go back in to hook it up before my wife wakes up, but one doesn’t want to run the risk of awaking the peacefully sleeping spouse–or at least, this particular spouse–before the appointed time.

Lately, though, I have profaned the sacred temple of my writing time. Why? Laziness of mind, probably. Fear of what I might write, maybe? I’m not sure I have a good answer for that.

Anyway, I’m thinking about this right now because it’s 6 a.m. and I’ve spent a frustrating time this morning trying to download a piece of software, trying to check my blog-traffic stats (thanks for the business, folks!), and wondering why Gmail has been loading so slowly the past couple of mornings. In other words, I’ve been farting around with things online that in theory should take “just a minute” but in fact have eaten through much of my holy two-hour block of time. Meanwhile, I have no less than five partially-done essays burning a hole in my pocket; I was sure I was going to get through one of them and post it here this morning. But instead I entered the Realm, I didn’t even get to enjoy the Mystery and Wonder part of it, and I didn’t finish that essay. So to recover some value from my misdirected time, I wrote this instead, as a reminder to you and to me: The Realm is a wonderful place to visit, but not when it keeps you from your real work.

Tomorrow morning, the router stays off.

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