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
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…