Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Terrible, Wonderful Internet

I have come to the conclusion that the Internet is like fire in that it can be either a blessing or a curse. Fire gives us warmth, heats our food and toasts our marshmallows, but it can also be destructive and deadly. The Internet gives us information and communication, but it can also suck us into its seductive depths and eat up all our time.

The way I got so much written Monday was by turning off the DSL modem. I've developed a bad habit of instinctively checking e-mail every time I get the least bit stuck on something I'm writing. Then I have to respond to e-mail, and then while I'm waiting for a response to my response I figure I might as well surf around to a few of the sites I like to keep track of. Next thing you know, half an hour or more has gone by. The pattern becomes: write a paragraph. Ponder what the next paragraph should say. Check e-mail. Respond to e-mail. Check Live Journal Friends list. Check various other sites. Check e-mail. Lather, rinse, repeat. In a surge of guilt, write another paragraph. Repeat entire process. It's amazing how much more I get done when I force myself to just keep going when I feel a little stuck, when I don't have easy access to my e-mail (the Internet gateway drug).

I can't entirely blame the Internet for my somewhat reduced productivity yesterday. I probably didn't get as much written as I should have, but without the Internet I probably would have written next to nothing. I've reached a part in the book where location research becomes important. It's a "Christmastime in New York" sequence, and that's why I'm going to New York in December, to get a feel for it. I know the city well enough to write just about anything else, but I've never been there for Christmas. I know I'll have to rewrite this chapter once I've been there, but I didn't feel I knew even enough to have a rough outline of what might happen, nor did I know enough to plan what I need to research while I'm there. Back in the Dark Ages, that would have meant I probably would have had to drop everything and go to the library, search through the Readers Guide to see if any magazines had articles about Christmas in New York, and then hope the library had those particular issues handy (microfilm might have been involved). Today, a quick Google search brought me a map of the best window displays, lists of events and even some attractions I'd never heard of before.

But, of course, it's easy to get sidetracked. I went from getting a rough feel of some events I might include to planning my own trip. Then there was e-mail checking while I had the modem up, and then the usual surfing. And there went the afternoon.

My other problem is that I'm still not entirely sure what will happen, and I know that being there will spark all sorts of ideas, some of them the kind of thing that's not in any guide or magazine article. Some of these ideas may even affect my story. I know where this sequence is heading, but getting there I was meandering and hating it. Thus the procrastination. I've now decided that there's no point in writing this sequence at all. I should just put in "holiday sequence goes here," then skip to the part I know I need to get to in order to hit my major plot point and move on, adjust my target page/word count expectations accordingly, then write the chapter itself when I get back from New York while I'm doing revisions on the entire book.

That makes me feel much, much better. It also means I should get through this chapter pretty quickly (on this draft, at least).

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