A Writer Thinks Twice About the Internet
Easy Access Isn’t Just a Flirty Skirt
I have a friend who has been unplugged for a month now. A noble gesture for sure, but one I’m unwilling to emulate. I don’t have cable, so I don’t watch TV, but I am a movie junkie and definitely use my $15/month at Netflix. I’m also on the internet a lot.
This weekend I’ve been having intermittent internet access. Sketchy at best. It’s frustrating and irritating – and slightly embarrassing because I can’t figure out if it’s a router issue, or operator error. I’ll spare you the troubleshooting and just move on to my personal discovery.
On our second hour and maybe sixth attempt at restarting the modem/router/laptops, this Sunday I was sitting in our living room with my children and mused aloud how addicted to the internet
we were I was. (I’ve been learning that if I introduce an idea, I need to use “I” language – as opposed to “we” language. Especially if a teenager could perceive it as a negative statement in any way.)
I talked of the things I’ve been neglecting with my recent internet/computer (over)use.
I used to write everything out longhand – essays, novels, journal entries – and then type it up later. But when I taught myself how to compose on the computer, my longhand writing trickled off to nothing.
And at what cost!
I started tallying it up today and I was dismayed to discover that more than one thing had bit the dust. (The deterioration of the English language for one. Handwriting slows my mind down and I have time to recover when a cliché trips me up, and then I can think of something more original than “bit the dust.”)
ONE] Letter writing is gone.
I’m shocked to realize that I don’t even think about it anymore. Before, I’d at least have the decency to feel guilty when I didn’t write a letter to (insert name of: old friend I’d lost touch with, family member I’d lost touch with, or once-upon-a-time immediate family member that I don’t live with anymore and am fast losing touch with.)
What really terrifies me is that I don’t even phone these people! I have a friend that talks to his sisters, dad, and mom weekly – if not more – but it’s been three years since I’ve spoken to the one sister that’s still talking to me. Except for an occasional Facebook comment. And I’m talking occasional.
But I digress.
TWO] It’s noisier.
Not writing with my pen has also taken me from my own silence. When I compose on the computer, I’m often distracted by convenient noise. Pandora or iTunes is playing in a window behind the one I’m writing on. Skype is on in case long-distance friends come on and want to chat. My email program is on so that when I get a new email, I’m notified immediately. (I reason that if I take care of email as it comes in, I don’t have projects bogging me down and I won’t forget to do them later if I just take the time to do them now.)
With all this “noise,” real or potential, I lose that writerly psychic connection to the words as souls. The part inside me that acts as a conduit for the characters that offer me their stories gets blocked – like bronchial tubes swollen with asthma.
THREE] I’m dumber?
When I’m writing longhand, a different part of my brain is accessed and utilized. Not more necessarily. And I’m not about to go into a debate on which method of putting stories to paper is more intellectually stimulating, but I just feel a physical difference.
I feel more alive, more grounded, more animated when I write with my hand. I’m more engaged in the creative process somehow.
Am I advocating writing your 400-page novel out longhand on legal pads instead of typing it into a hard drive with a word processor?
No. Probably not. In fact, I’ll continue typing it out on the computer.
I want to re-incorporate writing by hand in my weekly routine. In some form.
FOUR] Reading time has been sucked dry. Desicated.
Not being on the internet this weekend also reminded me about the reading I’m missing out on. I’ve always had stacks of books I “haven’t read yet” waiting for me, but never before have I had an ache for several specific titles at once that I couldn’t find time for, but was dying to read.
My kids are older now, I have less square-footage of living space to take care of, more free time available to me – where has my reading time gone? I used to read two or three books a month, now I’m not even reading one.
Recently, I was trying to understand why I wasn’t enjoying my book club anymore. It wasn’t that the books were bad; it wasn’t that it took up too much time every month, and it wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy being around the group when we met. So what was it?
It occurred to me only today, after this internet-Netflixy-lacking weekend, that the answer to both these questions was the same.
Watching a movie four or five times a week before going to bed has completely cut out my reading time. That’s when I used to read. Before bed.
And because I’m not reading, I’m not reading those titles that beg my attention, and so when I do read, it’s my book club books that get priority. Books on subjects and writing styles I would normally care about, or at least intrigue me, are now getting the skim treatment, and are disdainfully snubbed for the books I really want to read.
So am I going to go on an internet diet?
Texting, phoning, and Skyping all cut down on useable time during the day. BUT!!!
Will I aspire to at least lay off the Netflix?
I do love my movies, but I can surely limit them to one or two a week. And that makes room for more reading, more writing, and more living.
BONUS] Letting go of some of the Netflix chatter, and a more balanced intent on developing my career – which reading and writing AND internet presence are a part of – will bring me back into balance on so many other things.
I will sleep at more regular times, which creates more regular “hunger” times, which keeps me eating regularly. So now I’m healthier, which gives me energy and time for exercise … which makes me younger. That, and red henna from my local natural grocer's.
My younger, healthier self will have the mental buoyancy for a more rigorous and disciplined editing, promotional, and writing schedule – creating more career opportunities for me.
And all this life balance will support my personal relationships, as I show up with compassion and wholeness.
ALL from cutting back on Netflix.
I think I might’ve stumbled upon the Meaning of Life, or the Fountain of Youth. Something.
What about you?
What has the internet or modern technology (and its devices) chiseled out of your life?
What is your elixir of youth?
Let the comments commence …