I just read James Sturm’s “My (Probably Crazy) Plan to Give Up the Internet” at Slate Magazine, and it got me thinking about the stories I’ve heard from writers over the years who’ve also had to go cold turkey from the internet due to an addiction to online RPGs, or web surfing, or chat rooms, or compulsively checking their amazon sales rankings every few hours. There’s just sooooo much that can be done now online to waste the precious hours of each day.
I’ve had problems myself with wasting too much time on the internet, especially web surfing and reading news sites.
The best advice tends to share a common theme–separate the work and play areas as much as possible. Have a “writing” computer AND a “play” computer. Make sure the writing computer has no internet access or games on it.
I haven’t gone so far as to have two computers–yet–but I have learned to limit my internet usage to only music while I’m writing. No email or chat are allowed while writing by making sure I’m logged out of all my accounts. And when I catch myself breaking the “only music while writing” rule, I turn the network connection on my computer off.
However, I suspect I’ll have to go to keeping the network connection always off while writing, and listen to music through an iPod. The temptation to go surfing over to Wikipedia for just-in-time research is so strong at times.
High-intensity thinking activities, like writing or debugging, do require chunks of uninterrupted time to do. That needed chunk may be as short as 10-15 minutes, but if one’s getting email pings and surfing during that time period, one can find that the ability to focus has significantly deteriorated. I found that this was true for me when I took a hard look at my work habits, and I’ve noticed my ability to focus (and therefore my productivity) has improved since shutting off internet access while writing.