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So, I started a new novel on Monday and so far, so good; the writing is coming along nicely and it’ll be nice to keep it coming at this clip. For me, the major problem is not writer’s block or plot issues or anything structural involving the novel; I generally don’t have problems with those once I start, and with this new novel, thankfully, I didn’t have any real issues starting.
No, the problem is that the Internet is an attractive nuisance. And not just in the sense of that it distracts me when I need to be writing. No, as I get older, I find that actually plugging into it before I do any novel writing scrambles my brain enough to make it hard to get any appreciable progress made for the day. I think this is a combination of me getting older and the Internet just plain doing a better job of angrying up the blood or otherwise distracting me. I also think it also has to do with a certain amount of habituation, i.e., if I’m checking email, by brain just goes “Oh, we’re on the Internet now,” and just fires up those parts of my brain that work on the Internet. These do not, by and large, correspond to the novel writing parts of my brain.
How to deal with this? Well, I’ve made a new rule, which really isn’t a new rule, but kind of an update rule. And the rule is: before 2,000 words or noon, whichever comes first, no Internet at all. No blog, no Twitter, no Facebook, no email, no checking the news. When I sit down at the computer (usually around 8am), I disconnect it from the network. I leave the cell phone in the other room (and unless you’re my wife, daughter, editor or agent, if you call the landline, it’s not going to get picked up, either). No Internet. At all.
Now, this is similar to the rule I had before, which was no Internet while I was writing. The change is that previously when I woke up, I’d check email and Twitter and what have you, or before I started writing on the novel I might put up a blog post or a Big Idea piece. And I’ve found I can’t really do that anymore — off my brain will go, into a non-novel-writing mode. So: No Internet. At all.
And, well. So far, it’s working swell. The words are flowing, the plot is bubbling along, the characters are quipping and so and so forth, and when I get to about the 2k mark (or noon, whichever comes first), I pack it in for the day and do other things. The side effect, at least so far, is then I slide right into the other tasks pretty happily and efficiently, knowing that the thing I really have to do, i.e., writing on the novels, is already done for the day and not hanging over my head.
That said, I don’t want to get too excited, as it’s two days in to this particular novel writing session. There’s still lots of time to me to screw up my groove. But on the other hand, the more you do something, the easier it gets to do it. Also, and unsurprisingly, the Internet seems to get along just fine without me when I’m not there, which is a thing my feeder-bar subconscious wants to deny. Surprise! I’m just not a big deal on the Internet! Well, I’ll get over that one day, I suppose.
In any event: Hey, I’m writing a novel. Again. Let’s see how this one goes.