Friday, April 27, 2012

Writing in the Information Age...

It used to be that a writer sat down with pen and paper in hand, or maybe s/he pulled a chair up to a cozy typewriter and the writer scribbled or pounded away at story pieces in the wee dark hours. Writers still spend hours writing, although now we have computers, Word documents and spell check, and writing has become so much easier for us. Or has it?

Thirty to forty years ago, when a writer hit a mental block or couldn't breach the wall of a plot or story-line, there was little to do except maybe turn on the television, read a book or head out to a bar or a late night diner for inspiration. Today, computers wired in to the Internet provide writers with a number of distractions to pull him or her away from the unwritten page. There's facebook and Twitter and a host of community websites. There's online games, video games, Netflix and Clicker.

Mired in a quicksand of unproductive thought? There's Farmville and many other cyber-games that can pull you away from your writing task at hand, and there's nothing to stop you except the writing deadline that either your publisher, your agent and you yourself have imposed.

Don't get me wrong. There are endless benefits to the Internet for a writer. Social media sites allow an author to promote their novels and allow infinite connections with other writers, readers and potential publishers. But it is ever so easy to be pulled into the cyber-world and put off that novel unless you learn to set limits and craft a personal schedule.

Writing requires thought and time, and for some it demands a great deal of research into topics both familiar and foreign. Writing is a process. And it doesn't happen with incessant blogging, tweeting and facebook chats. In order to pump out those words that will eventually be your completed work, you need to devote time and effort toward it, but how do you do that? I say the answer lies in learning how to unplug. Consider cutting the time you spend on the Internet. If you have a hard time doing this, then just shut your Internet off for a certain period of time on your computer. Each day, set time aside some time just for writing, and DO NOT turn the wireless on, or plug in, until you've achieved your desired word count, or until you've written for a certain number of minutes.

If you hit a wall, or run into that feared 'writer's block'... take time to read your manuscript from beginning to end, or choose a few chapters you know will galvanize you. Or better yet take a trip to the bookstore (alone), and go through magazines that deal with the topic on which your plot or subject is built. Science Fiction crafters will find a world of great ideas in Popular Mechanics or Popular Science, and other genre writers will find much the same in their genre style magazines. Bring a pen and paper to the bookstore, or your i-Pad or computer. Buy that cup off coffee, sit down and read and when you've got some good ideas start writing them down. Do NOT turn on the Internet. Do NOT answer the phone. Set aside time for yourself and for practicing your craft and you'll find that the words WILL come, and the ideas will flow, and you won't be mired in the muck of Internet traffic. Instead, you'll be on your way to finishing your piece and you'll be proud of the work you did that day.

As for me, after sitting to write this short piece, I'm turning of my wireless and getting back to my novel. I try to set aside two twenty-minute intervals with a ten minute break in between to stand up, stretch and/or do some research, then off goes the Internet once again. I finish another twenty minutes and by the time I'm done I end up with a five to ten pages of useful material. The journey of 100,000 words begins with that first word, but you'll never make it if you stop and camp out on a page for too long. Keep on crafting. Keep on writing.  And know that with a little self discipline you will achieve your goal, and you'll be proud that you did.

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