Tuesday, August 16, 2016


by Rick Blechta

The internet, much like anything else, has a good side and a bad side. Actually, please allow me to restate that. The internet has some very good sides and some very bad sides. It has changed the way we interact, receive information (a lot of information), even the way we think. It is both an extremely useful tool and a curse.

All that said, this post is not about the pluses and minuses of this ubiquitous thing in our modern lives, but the way those of us “ink-stained wretches” interact with it.

Here’s the thing: in the “dark ages” (pre-internet), we’d have to trudge down to the local library if we needed research information, look through a card catalog (remember those?) and then have to search a book for the information needed. We’re talking anywhere from an hour or two to several days to get what we needed.

The point is that research took a lot of time and we all know that skimping on research is a quick way to risk condemnation by reviewers or readers who actually know what you’re talking about.

Now, fire up your favourite browser program, type in a few key words and you’re off to the races. You can get the information in minutes, if not seconds. Great, right?

But like everything in life, this ease of access comes with a price: you can find anything on the World Wide Web, and the thing that can come back to bite you is stopping browsing the internet. It can be like thumbing through a dictionary in search of a particular word. If you’re like me, you can’t help but stop and look at other words, and all of a sudden you’ve spent a half hour (or more) looking up interesting things, perhaps increasing your vocabulary in the process, but no further along in your work-in-progress.

The internet is way worse.

Case in point, I needed to look up the median temperature in fall in Cold Spring, NY. An hour later, I’d checked my email, looked at the headlines (and read a few articles) in 2 online newspapers, checked the weather back in Toronto (for the next week), looked at my email again, peeked at Facebook, read an article on plagiarism, and then, finally got around to looking up what I’d gone after in the first place.

Am I an dolt who can’t control what he’s doing? Not really. Was I trying to avoid working on my novel? Hell no! What I am is naturally curious, and I feel very secure in saying that I am not out of the ordinary in the writing world. Writers have to be naturally curious to be any good. Our plots would have far fewer interesting twists and turns if we weren’t that way.

Thing is, you have to be disciplined about it. Somehow, curiosity has to be kept in check at certain times — like those few precious hours you’ve set aside for actually moving your manuscript along.

I guess I’m not very good at that.

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