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from "Personal Space and Writing Novels in the Internet Era," by Jeff Vandermeer, Ecstatic Days, 13 September 2008; photo by juanpol/Flickr :: via Jacket Copy blog and Polymeme
My Powerbook

Okay, I’ll admit it: work on my new novel, Finch, is going well because every morning my long-suffering yet often amused wife Ann hides the router box and my cell phone. I get up around 7am, I have my breakfast and watch something innocuous like BBC News or Frasier for about half an hour, and then get down to work. Around noon I take a break to get some lunch, then go back to it, usually at that point editing or organizing notes. Around 2:30 I call Ann on our landline and she tells me where the router box and the cell phone are (it has internet access on it) so I can finish up the afternoon with necessary emails and other work, before going to the gym.

The internet in its many forms is, for me, a harmful and insidious enemy of novel creation. A novel takes a great deal of uninterrupted thought, not to mention uninterrupted writing. A novel in gestation does not brook interference of this kind. This isn’t just a matter of procrastination or time-wasting. It directly affects quality and depth in my opinion. The sustained effort required by a novel should not include multi-tasking on other things, if you have the option.

Ten years ago this is not something I, or anyone else, would have had to worry about. In fact, I remember writing parts of one novel in an apartment that didn’t even have electricity. Or, heck, any furniture to speak of. I got up around dawn, went to my day job, and then came back and wrote until it got dark. Sometimes I’d go to a coffee shop so I could write longer.

The point is, some forms of modern technology are, in a certain context, dangerous. Sometimes in workshops, Ann and I will force students to write longhand just to cut them off from their laptops and all the stuff that comes flying up onto the screen. Some hate it. Some realize what they’ve been missing.