Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Quicksand on Your Desk

by Janis Patterson
On my desk there is a dangerous sink of quicksand that can pull me down in a minute. I’ll bet there’s one of your desk, too.

It’s called the Internet.

Yes, the Internet is a great invention. It has made research a snap, giving writers access to information which would have been difficult if not impossible to obtain otherwise. It has created a community of writers from the heartland to the Antipodes, allowing a heretofore unparalleled exchange of information. (Much, I think, to the chagrin of the traditional publishers!) It has allowed writers to publish their own books and claim the well-deserved lion’s share of the income for their hard work. (Causing, I think, an ever-increasing malaise among the traditional publishers!) It makes it easier for readers to find, follow and befriend their favorite authors as well as discover authors they might not have found any other way.

But there is no rose without a thorn. While it has been intensely liberating for both writers and readers, the Internet is sort of like one of those carnivorous tropical plants – alluring but deadly.

Say it’s a bright new day, and I decide that this is the day I’ll finish that pesky midsection of my work in progress. There’s not that much to do, so it shouldn’t take too long… First I’ll just check my inbox. Three hundred and some-odd emails later, I’ve read a great deal, written a goodly number of replies, and a large chunk of the morning is gone without my having accomplished anything substantive.

Well, it’s not that late, so I’ll just take a minute to check out a few of my favorite blogs – after all, they’re writing blogs, so it’s not really taking time from work, it’s professional research.

How did it get to be lunchtime so quickly? Well, I’ll just have a quick sandwich here in front of the computer, and so I don’t waste time, I’ll research that little fact that’s been snagging my storyline to see what I can do about it.

I am startled to realize that lunchtime is long over, the plate of crumbs and curling crusts is balanced perilously on my printer and I’m reading something which has nothing to do with my work in progress, but where I’ve been lead by a tantalizing trail of links and curiosity.

Worse yet, suddenly it’s late afternoon and I haven’t done a lick of work.

See what I mean? Quicksand.

Now it’s not usually anywhere this bad – though this exact scenario has happened – but it is so easy to be seduced from work into Internet play. When faced with the siren allure of the Internet writers need concentration and discipline, two virtues which I most notably lack.

Unfortunately, unless we want to go back to the clumsy, time-consuming old days of handwritten letters and trips to the library, the Internet is now an integral part of our lives. We must make sure it doesn’t take over our lives.


Just be careful of the quicksand on your desk…

18 comments:

Vamp Writer said...

Amen and AMEN...not only is it quicksand, my computer is a time bandit...I can sit down to look at a couple of e-mails at three in the afternoon and when I get up it is nine at night!

earlwstaggs said...


It's such an easy pit to fall into, Susan. An irresistable and seductive siren. The only cure, I think, is to set a time limit on net time.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Janis,

Yes, that has become a problem for me as well. I realize that I am expending much too much time on social networking that would be better spent on actual writing.

Lynn Cahoon said...

I'm starting a book tour tomorrow and thought I'd be working the few days before. HA. Always one more thing.. I guess I should stop struggling before I get in deeper.

Great post.

Leah Braemel said...

So true--I am starting to think that my desk/office is bad for my creativity because when I am sitting at it I find myself thinking about the business side of writing. "I need to make a banner for my blog hop..." there go hours of searching the stock photo sites. "I need to figure out where to send my ARC" so my brain tells me I am being productive when the focus needs to be writing. I long for the days of my Mac when I could turn on my Freedom program and cut off the net. While there is a PC version simply turning off the Internet means it is just as simple to turn it back on.

E. Ayers said...

Maybe that's why my life is backwards. I write at night. Between midnight and seven a.m is when I'm most productive, no one is awake so it's very quiet. (Even the animals know it's time to sleep.) I just write or do what must be done without any distractions. The email doesn't ping. Just me and the keyboard to keep the muse company.

April Taylor said...

Confess! You've put a hidden camera in my office haven't you? And now, before I can get down to work, I have to file my overlong nails!

Radine Trees Nehring said...

You have made my day. No, my week--and, probably, my year. I initially got sucked into the Internet trap when promoting on the Internet became a "must" for authors. With slow connection speed, I could spend over half a day trying to read and take part in lists, join groups and participate, deal with facebook (still a challenge) and more. Where will it all end? I have begun to try and make sensible choices but it's still a struggle.
Thanks for the liberating post, Radine

Susan Oleksiw said...

I learned pretty fast I could sink out of sight every single morning. I try to limit my time to an hour in the morning, and then an hour or so in the afternoon, but I admit I'm not good at it.

The internet is wonderful and horrible, and I can't live without it, but I'd like to kill it. Sigh. Good post.

Barry Knister said...

Janis--
There is only one help for it: you must think of the Internet as a dog. It's a good dog, a nice dog, but always demanding a walk, or bringing you something to throw, or chewing up throw pillows. So, she must be kept in her crate when you're writing. What is this crate? NEVER GOING TO THE INTERNET BEFORE WRITING A CERTAIN SET LENGTH OF TIME--in other words, never doing what I'm doing right now. Tomorrow, for sure, I'll put in play the dog crate regimen. For sure.

Claire Fullerton said...

This is so true! Now that I've read your post, I will now laugh every time I'm tempted to succumb to distraction! Thank you, Janis!

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Absolutely the truth. Even when we make rules for ourselves, we often break them. Great post.

Sandy Cody said...

You nailed it with this one. Quicksand, indeed!

Jana Richards said...

Definitely quicksand! I like Barry's analogy, too. The dog that must be walked and attention paid to. I try to put that dog in its crate, but it keeps calling to me until I let it out to play!

Beate Boeker said...

Boy, can I relate! I shouldn't even read this - but it was fun! :-)

Richard Brawer said...

Hi Janis,
You are bsolutely correct. I had to remove myself from one site because they didn't send a digest and every posting filled my in box. Where I usually get 30 or so e-mails a day I was suddenly getting over 100.

Richard Brawer
www.silklegacy.com

ckcrouch.com said...

LOL my desk is the laptop on the lap on the couch. My problem is games on the phone and Kindle. My fingers wander off to play and time flies away. I do think it helps my mind with thinking on things though.

ckcrouch.com said...

LOL my desk is the laptop on the lap on the couch. My problem is games on the phone and Kindle. My fingers wander off to play and time flies away. I do think it helps my mind with thinking on things though.