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Susan Ito trying to do it all: reading writing mothering spousing daughtering working living

Saturday, January 14, 2006


I woke up yesterday morning, thinking, I must write to Dr. Sue and ask her what I can do about my Internet addiction. In the years since we installed wireless, high-speed access in our house, my writing output has dwindled. And I know that the two are directly connected, because when I go to colonies, where Internet access is deliberately limited, my writing output soars. It isn't just being away from family and work and daily responsibilities; it's that infinitely sticky Web.

So imagine my surprise when I logged onto Dr. Sue's column and found that the topic was... Internet addiction! And I was incredulous to see that Dr. Sue had linked part of her response to THIS BLOG, and my post on freewriting. Now that's ironic. Especially considering that during some two-week spans, the only time I really get any writing done is during that one-hour period when I am surrounded by my freewriting witnesses, and I absolutely have to do it.

But I was very interested (actually, desperate) to read Dr. Sue's advice on the matter, as well as some very helpful ideas from some of her readers. Dr. Sue said:

Decide beforehand how much time you wish to spend on the Internet. Half an hour is usually reasonable, but you may require longer or shorter breaks. Whatever you decide, stick with it. If you tend to lose track of time, invest in a kitchen timer. Return to your work at the prescribed time, even if you are in the middle of an absorbing discussion, even if your best friend has just sent you a weepy email about her romantic breakup or accusing you of neglecting your friendship. Remind yourself that if you had an office or factory job, you would be expected to go back to work at the end of your break regardless of the state of your personal life. Then, after another hour or two (assuming you have the luxury of writing for several hours at a stretch), take another break. After a week or so, you will have fine-tuned your schedule, and it will begin to feel natural to you.

And one of her readers had this to add:

I do my fiction writing on a laptop that never gets connected to the Internet.
When I'm strong enough to be self-disciplined, I save Internet use for the end of my writing day.
...If I manage to make the connection a reward rather than a morning routine, I get a lot more done.

Now that's a concept. A reward rather than a routine. I know this is bad. I keep my laptop next to my bed, on the floor. (I often write in bed) When I wake up in the morning, I pull it onto my stomach, like a little lapwarmer, and check my email, even sometimes before going to the bathroom! Now that's bad. And there it is, all day. Now, I'm often doing things that enhance my writing - visiting Readerville, or other writing blogs, or "doing research" on my WWII novel, or writing emails to other writers about writing. It all counts, doesn't it? Doesn't it? Sure it does, but I think I would be a lot better off if my ratio of True Writing to Reading or Writing About Writing was 10:1 and not the other way around.

I'm going to have to bite the bullet. I'm going to have to make some changes around here. I don't think I can do the 2nd computer option, although I still do have my old clamshell iBook lying around. I could completely disconnect that one and use it as my primary writing computer.

I could take myself somewhere (not an Internet cafe, hah!) where there is no wireless connection. I used to work often at the Mills College library and that was a good thing. I love those little wooden carrels with the dividers like blinders. I just hope they haven't installed a wireless hub.

That is one of the best things about Santa Sabina, my beloved convent-ish place. I go there when I need a mini-retreat, and something tells me I need to go there a lot more often. They have a small room with a dialup connection, and that's fine, to perhaps check once in a six hour period, and not every six minutes.

Another option is to install a Big Brother type software, like the one I used to limit my kids' Internet access a few years ago. I should probably install it on my main computer. You can program it to shut off access between certain hours, or to allow only a certain amount of connection per 24 hour period.

I could also hire somebody to sit next to me all day and if they see a browswer bar appearing on my screen instead of the Word toolbar, they can strike me with a sharp object until I cry.

Any other ideas?


Blogger C(h)ristine said...

Yes, they have wireless on campus at Mills. For better and for worse!

Saturday, January 14, 2006 8:30:00 PM

Blogger Susan said...

Curses. Foiled again! I'd better go lock myself up at Santa Sabina, then.

Saturday, January 14, 2006 8:57:00 PM

Blogger expatmama said...

Good luck, Susan. I need to reorganize my time too, and I do spend too much time online, though I hate even thinking about cutting back...

Sunday, January 15, 2006 12:40:00 PM

Blogger melanie said...

I feel you - I just recently got broadband, and now "I'm just going to check my email really quick" easily turns into an hour or more. It's sick, sick, sick! As if the other screen in my house (the tv) weren't enough.

I'll have to try the kitchen timer thing.

Sunday, January 15, 2006 8:07:00 PM

Blogger Bustopher Jones said...

I responded to this earlier, but for some reason it didn't post. What I said was I am also totally addicted to the Internet and my strategy is to write at the local coffee shop or somewhere else outside of the house that doesn't have Internet access. And I have to set a specific time that I'll arrive (say by 9 a.m.). Otherwise, I waste all morning on the Internet and then I don't have enough time to write. Once I'm there, I'm fine, and can write for a few hours before my addiction drives me home to check my e-mail.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006 8:06:00 AM

Blogger Susan said...

Excellent idea, Bustopher. But those coffee shops without Internet are getting harder to find! Best is to find one that makes you pay.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006 8:13:00 AM

Blogger C(h)ristine said...

I write with the TV on, dogs on my lap and my wireless internet on full blast. I'm trying to build up immunity.

I'll let you know if it works! ;)

Tuesday, January 17, 2006 6:14:00 PM


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