I’m sure many of you know what I’m talking about when I moan, “Internet Guilt.” Imagine that in a creepy font dripping with icicles and/or blood. Sometimes when I fire up the computer, it’s really, really hard to stay off the internet. I wonder if old-fashioned writers ever had that problem – they sharpened their favorite pen and set up their ink and paper with the best of intentions, and wound up writing to their aunt. Or their sister staying with their aunt. Or their sister’s dog who was staying with their aunt’s children.
I’m not going to argue for either side of the teeter-totter. All play and no writing is obviously not good for a writer. Nothing gets written. But on the other hand, all work and no internet is boring. And I would argue that it is bad for the writing – we need outside input in order to create texture in our writing, and the internet is one of the easiest ways to get input of all sorts.
The trick is to find the work/play balance somewhere in the middle of the teeter-totter.
Yesterday was a case for judicious internet for me. I had succumbed yet again to “just checking my mail” before starting writing. I’ve had this huge hole for the past month, and I was afraid that any writing was just going to be more clutter for my hard drive. I felt I was close to being ready – but to be honest, I’d felt that way every day for the past few weeks, yet hadn’t managed to make much progress beyond Elizabeth’s weekly writing prompts. “Checking my mail” turned into “looking at The Atlantic for anything interesting” and “surfing the blogs.”
It’s no secret that we here at Eight Ladies are fans of Jennifer Crusie, and her blog is full of excellent advice and encouragement for writers of all levels. Right now, Jenny is at the discovery stage of her new story, so the advice is particularly relevant for me. And it’s not only Jenny’s great advice, but her community of commenters is full of really thoughtful, helpful people as well.
So, I’m reading, feeling very guilty and totally recognizing the “rah-rah, get it done” cheer that Jenny is performing on this post, when I get to the comments. And there I see a discussion about writing a self-evaluation. Bridget gives some most excellent advice, and I stop. I have to re-read it, because this looks like the magic bullet.
“Of course you can make it up,” Bridget writes.
1. Pretend you’re a guy. (Hey, no problem! My POV is a guy. I just have to grow some imaginary balls and do it.)
2. Pretend you’re writing this about your best friend. (Eureka! You know what? Thomas O’Malley, the leprechaun looking for a fortune, really IS Jack de Winter’s best friend. I didn’t realize it at first; I was trying to make them total strangers. But no, they are drinking buddies.)
3. Pretend you’re explaining to your spouse/your mother/your dog how you got that promotion/raise finally. (Pretend I’m explaining to my new girlfriend, Olivia, how I wound up with a magical gold ring, and an angry Rheinmaiden on my trail.)
This was a revelation! And I was almost there, when Kelly adds in the next comment, “I’ve read that when considering whether to apply for a particular job, a woman won’t unless she has 100% of the “Required” skills whereas a man will apply if he has only 60% of the skills.”
Whoa! I know I’ve got 60 percent of what I need to write this scene! And I’m pretending to be a man anyway. I scratch my metaphorical balls.
I thanked the ladies for their insights, and sat down and wrote the plot outline for the short story. Now I’ve got 70 percent of the story!
See? The internet can be quite useful! So, where do you go on the internet for some outside input? I enjoy blogs like Jenny’s, and also Pat Wrede’s writing blog. I listen to podcasts like Pop Culture Happy Hour and the sadly stalled SF Squeecast (podcasts are still available, and evergreen, so they are as useful now as they were when they hit the internet). YouTube is invaluable for interviews as well as music for playlists. And Google Image is great for the times when my subconscious is trying to tell me something, but can only squeeze out a word or two.
Now, back to some writing!