I was born in a time before instant everything. When you couldn’t just Google which movies were at the theater. When you had to make sure you caught the weather in the morning or be caught without your umbrella. When doing your history homework required your schoolbooks or a trip to the library. When movies or TV shows were events that must be planned for and consumed immediately or missed forever, not something to be DVRed.
I can’t even express how much I adore, love, and depend on the constant flow of relevant information that is literally at my fingertips.
For example, my entire world changed one night in 1998 or so when I used my dial up internet and researched writing. I found the incomparable Holly Lisle. Her article Mugging the Muse changed my life.
I understood at last that writers weren’t the chosen few but everyday nurse-single-mom people. Non-deity, average Janes who didn’t necessarily have an English or Creative Writing degree. They were doing it and making a living. I had always known I loved writing. That I wanted to be published, but had never thought that I could do it right where I was. That was a solid gold gift from the interwebs.
This launched my pursuit of a writing career. Which 17 years later, I’m still chasing. I’ve been distracted by family and jobs and responsibilities, but I survived and learned. I found a community of writers and groups mostly online. Read and studied blogs and took classes. Did research and wrote books.
But the thing with the net and the at-the-click-of-a-mouse everything is that all movement is not progress. I often fall down a rabbit hole of linked web pages that could circle the world. If one resource is good, two or three would be better.
And isn’t it nifty that there was a riot in Birmingham England in 1790, and if I only knew more about that I could flesh out my story. Then I realize all my writing time is gone. I have been working the entire time, but I’ve made no actual headway. (To be honest there are millions of really cute cat and dog videos just waiting to be discovered on YouTube.)
The internet connects, but it also distracts, sucks time, and gives a false sense of progression.
Even though I love the communication and classes, I have to temper my curiosity. I must sit down and review my outcomes. How many words today? How many pages edited? Did I connect with a future agent with a query?
To help with focus, I’ve found a couple of online tools: Strict Workflow and Momentum. Both are Google Chrome extensions that help get you back on task.
Strict Workflow lets you set a timer that will block a list of sites you include on a list. Most commonly these are email, Facebook, and Twitter. The app gives you sessions of work and free time, which I totally dig, and it’s flexible with sites to block, session duration, and even gives you a short break period.
Momentum takes over your new tab feature, provides a beautiful picture, and gives you a place to list your goals for the day. So when you click on a new tab (which I do almost by habit) it smacks you with a goals list that reminds you to get back to work.
The internet gives and the internet takes. My goal is to take advantage of the most wondrous tool that has ever been created by mankind, while avoiding its greatest diversion.
What distracts you from your work? What advances hold both gifts and challenges?