The keyboard and screen have been a huge advance and timesaver for writers. The ease of editing, the immediate access to online information and research, the speed of submitting and communicating, all contribute to making our literary lives flow better. And yet, Satan lurks where the Internet perks.
The opportunity to careen off, away from your writing, into any one of an infinite number of beguiling non-productive online expeditions beckons at your fingertips. These off-task cyber distractions may feel more immediately gratifying than your writing project does, and they will call to you sweetly, entreating you to pause in your travails and spend “just a few moments” with them.
Powerful and devious cyber demons like Email, Facebook, Twitter and the like must be tamed. These omnipresent time sinks are here to stay and you have to keep them in their place if you are intent on writing.
If you find yourself deeply absorbed in your email correspondences during your writing time, you might rationalize by saying “At least I’m writing!” Sorry, but actually, you are not. You are avoiding your more important writing.
Helpful rules you can adopt are “Write First” or “Do the Harder Thing First.” Make your other online activities contingent upon having done a prescribed amount of writing each day. If given the choice between online shopping versus writing your book, do the book work first. If you start with the shopping, the odds that you will get back to the book drop dramatically. If you start with the book, you will have a sense of accomplishment, and when you buy a blender online later, it will be a reward that reinforces your efforts.
I know people who warm up for a writing session by doing their email, and if this works for you, more power to you. If however, you tend to get lost for hours in the online world, you might have to think about disconnecting your computer from the Internet when you write. This sounds severe, but writers do this if they are unable to control the impulse to flee into virtual worlds.
When you go online, Satan whispers “procrastinate.” Don’t cave in and trade him your writing soul for a few moments of pleasant distraction.