Television and the internet are similar in that many writers advise abandoning them, and in that doing so is throwing out the baby with the bathwater. That said, the internet is far more vast, and far more riddled with tiger traps.
To be honest, if I wasn’t writing this post, I’d be slogging my way through the story that’s currently sucking at my feet with every step. Sometimes writing is glorious and ecstatic, and sometimes it’s tedious and painful, and at the moment I’m in the land of pain and tedium. That’s one of the many realities of the beast, or, at the very least, my beast. So, one of the helps and hindrances of the internet is as an escape. A help because sometimes I need to step back from the wall I’ve been banging my head on to realize there’s a door ten feet to my right. And a hindrance because if I step too far back or wander off, I’m not going to find that door. I’m not even going to be driven to scale the wall out of sheer frustration.
The internet is also a glorious source of juicy facts and potential story ideas, which likewise cuts both ways. I’m fond of websites like Metafilter and Mental Floss, which are both places where people post things that made them sufficiently excited/intrigued/enraged that they thought you just might be too. They’re also each policed in their own ways so that the mundane usually gets left by the wayside. Metafilter is where I first found out about the Taman Shud Case, the unsolved 1948 murder case of a man in Australia who remains unidentified to this day, a case of secret messages and mistaken identities and insinuations of espionage. Look it up, it’s awesome. And Mental Floss is where I found out about the Seven Society at the University of Virginia, a society so secret that their members are only identified when a 7 of black magnolias is placed on their headstone, that the only way to contact them is to leave a letter under the statue of Thomas Jefferson in the school’s rotunda. I went to Yale, folks. Skull and Bones has nothing on these guys. Things like that can tickle anyone’s imagination, and to a writer they open up little pockets of reality that can branch out into whole worlds of their own. This is valuable, and I keep my journal open on my desk when I’m browsing those sites for exactly that reason.
However, of course there’s such a thing as too much, and with the scope of the internet, there’s always too much, right there, a click away. You can spend too much time on one topic, you can spend too much time discovering new topics that are just as awesome. You can spend so much time steeped in ideas that you never actually do anything with them. I know, it happens to me all the time. That alone is danger enough. And I haven’t even touched the blessing/curse that is Facebook, Twitter, Livejournal, Dreamwidth, Tumblr, the endless bounty of flash games, the staggering number of blogs, on and on ad infinitum.
So I try not to let myself get too caught up in it all. Try to focus on things that are enriching. Try to limit my time to reasonable parameters.
And I fail all. The. Time. I hack off a head of the hydra one day, and damned if it doesn’t grow back the next. If anyone has any advice on how to sear the stumps, I’m all ears.