Sink hole of time or nirvana?
Good question. Simple answer: Neither! Both! The internet can literally catapult your dreams of writing, publishing and selling your writing forward, or it can suck you into a murderous pit of wasted time that will annihilate every dream you've ever had of making it in the writing world.
Pretty dramatic, huh?
Elaborate, drama queen.
Writers are the world's best procrastinators. I know. I am one. I've been there. Bet you have too. How can you tell if you're afflicted with the procrastinator gene? If you'll seize upon any excuse to avoid writing -- if a smudge on the window fascinates you, if you'll even rearrange the books on your shelves to avoid putting words to paper or fingertips to keyboard -- then you're a real, get-down-and-dirty writer. Procrastination. It's the plague of our profession.
Why? Well, you see, we're all alone. We face the blank page or the computer screen unsupervised, all by our lonesome. It's all on us. So, we look for distractions. Oh, we don't mean to. We mean to write. We mean to set the world on fire with our prose, our advertising copy, our journalistic thrusts and parries. By golly we're good!
But there's this little voice inside saying, "Hmm, there must be something else I could be doing right now besides cogitating in front of my computer." In fact, there are lots of things, but we think and come up with an idea: I know, there's this project I need to research.
Good enough. Onto the web we go. Now I'm not saying research is bad, in fact it's very good. Every writer will tell you how wonderful the web is for research, saving all those trips to the library, so much information at our fingertips, etc. etc. etc. Then there are the sites so helpful to writers and their careers: this one for example! All of this is good.
But remember the force and don't be drawn to the "dark side." For most of us it's a discipline we must master. A definite amount of time must be blocked out for that research and no more. Or, we must stick resolutely and determinedly to the subject we pursue. Bookmark other items of interest along the way and go back to them later. Make good and wise use of the fabulous resource the web is.
Spend time on sites which actually help your career. Ones that offer research material, markets, informative articles. I actually have a folder marked "weird sites." These are sites I've bumped into along the way, ones that might spark an idea later, when I'm not in the middle of a project.
The web, for all its good points, provides many distractions. Many alternate paths. Like the gaping maw of an alternative universe it beckons, drawing the unwary onward, ever onward, a little astray of the subject, then more and more until -- the very lifeblood of your writing endeavors, the precious hours set aside, are diminished and gone (whew!, got a little carried away there -- ah, the drama).
There you sit, deflated and defeated. The hours available to write have been frittered away but you've had a helluva time on the web!
Don't let this be you. Set yourself boundaries.
Recognize the web for the goldmine of information, help and support that it is, and the blood-sucking monster it can become, then do yourself a favour -- apply the seat of your pants to your chair and write!
Author of Doubleday western novels, Harlequin romances, Fictionworks' fantasies (Ebook format), Peggy Bechko has also optioned screenplays domestically and abroad, written for an animated series and for variety of other venues. She's working on a new novel and collaborating with a producer on a animated series. http://www.peggybechko.50megs.com/