Something that I struggle with, and that I have noticed with many of the writers around me, is that it is so easy to get distracted by all the peripheral stuff and forget the core business of writing. I can sit down to write with the best of intentions only to realise hours later that I haven’t written anything, that I’ve just fooled myself into thinking I needed to update my blog (oh the irony of writing this right now) or interact on Twitter. Those things may be useful to me as a writer, but they still aren’t writing. That’s why this post by the talented and wise Deborak Kalin really hits home. Definitely food for thought.
Silence, or How I Learned To Love (And Switch Off) The Internet
It’s something I’ve heard at almost every point of wanting and trying to build a writing career: you have to be active on the internet.
When I joined my first writing group, I remember being told I needed a blog. The reasoning being that a web presence is essential, because writing is a slow (and often isolated) process and readers need some way to discover you and discover that you have more than the one story/book available. Since there’s nothing like a static site to spell death on the internet, a blog was the easiest answer to maintaining a dynamic web presence. It would allow the building of community, connecting me with other writers to support me and my career, providing a signal boost which would maybe, just maybe, prove the tipping point into viability.
To be fair, the blog did, indeed, connect me with other writers, and through it I’ve met some people I now count as close friends. As to how it impacted reader interaction, or sales … who can say? I can’t. I don’t think anyone can.
And of course virtual socialising, which didn’t start with blogs, didn’t end there. Now we also have twitter, facebook, last.fm, tumblr, pinterest, just to mention a handful. As a writer at any stage, the pressure to be part of this swirl comes from all directions: readers want the personal interaction; publishers want the writer to be utilising the valuable promotional opportunity; writers want that same signal boost, and they also want to touch base with the community at large. The cross-pollination of ideas that comes from exposure to a wide variety of stimulus and industry chatter is, in its way, invaluable.
But it comes at a cost. There’s the inevitable time pressure, yes, but then there’s also the noise.
This is something with which I’m only just now starting to grapple. The sense of community and the sheer quantity of stimulus paraded out every hour is intoxicating. It challenges, pushes thinking in new directions, sparks ideas … and it also drowns out the silence.
I use that silence as a place from which to create. I like stuffing myself full of ideas and letting them ferment, unable to be spoken to anyone, until there’s no other option than to burst forth in a story. I’m a total junkie for that process and the internet — with its many platforms wanting me to dash off a thought here or an observation there — sips and saps at my silent time until it takes longer and longer for the fermentation to finish in a story.
For me, and several others, the answer has been to withdraw from the internet; to be more selective about which services I let myself use and how often I use them. I used to guard my writing hours: lately I’ve taken to guarding some silent hours as well.
Deborah Kalin is the author of The Binding duology (Allen & Unwin), and is currently working on a short story collection for the Twelve Planet series (Twelfth Planet Press). She can no longer remember what she has said about herself from one bio to the next.You can find her site here.