Monday, February 21, 2011

The Internet: Best friend or worst enemy?

Or a little of both?...

As an “Indie” writer, I owe whatever success I’ve had so far to the Internet. All of us “Indies” do. The Internet has finally provided an outlet for us to sell out works without having to go through the traditional gatekeepers. Not only that, but it also provides a means to promote our work without spending an arm and a leg on advertising. Anyone with the drive and determination can write a book, put it up for sale on Amazon and other outlets, and then send it to review bloggers, create a Facebook page, a blog, a website, etc. If the work is any good, people will hear about it, and hopefully buy it, and the Indie writer can begin to make a living. Yeah for the Internet! My new best friend!

Of course there is a flip side to all of this. For any writer, the Internet can be a huge distraction. Throughout history, a writer’s tools have allowed him or her to write, and nothing more. From papyrus paper in ancient Egypt, to notebooks and ballpoint pens, to typewriters to electric typewriters, the tool was a means of getting thoughts onto paper. That is no longer the case. Now a writer’s tool allows that writer to check e-mail messages, read news, play games, participate in forums, see real-time sales figures for their books, watch videos, and on and on. All it takes is one tap of the mouse and suddenly the writer can lose himself in this digital world. This is something every writer on earth is now having to struggle with. It opens up a lot of questions. What effect is this having on the literature of our day and age? What are these distractions having on the writer’s creativity? What is it doing to our brains and the way they function? Perhaps only time will be able to answer these questions, but perhaps more pressing, what can a writer do to combat this new menace?

One much-discussed approach is that of the writer Jonathan Franzen, who claims that nobody with Internet access at his or her workplace is writing great fiction. Franzen famously removed the wifi card from his computer, deleted any program that might distract him, and put Super Glue in his Ethernet port. Like most authors, I haven’t succumbed to that approach yet, but I can definitely see where he’s coming from. So far I’m making-do by unplugging my wifi router for extended periods during the day, or else just trying to get by on sheer willpower. I’m hoping that with practice, the willpower alone will be sufficient, but again time will tell. If all else fails, it is good to know that the convenience store down the street is stocked with plenty of Super Glue.

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