Oxymoron: Discipline and the Internet

iStock_000004619850XSmallInternet-300x225I used to be really disciplined. If I didn’t have a training session (I used to train executives to be better speakers), I’d write early in the morning before I took the kids to school. I would work out, come home, and write some more. By lunchtime I was done. I’d spend the afternoon editing. Or doing promotion.

And then there was the Internet. And email and Amazon and and blogposts and free days and everything else. My productivity declined precipitously. These days, I feel like I live online. And I do. It’s actually pretty sad.

In fact, I have no idea how I wrote my last three books. Really. My impression of the past six years is that I’ve done nothing except stay online the entire day. To be fair, part of my day is spent reading about the business of publishing. It’s hard for me to pass up certain blogs, digests, and opinions. I used to be a news junkie, and I fear I’ve simply transferred  my information jones to publishing.

But the internet doesn’t help. I’ve heard some people have two computers, one for writing with absolutely no hook-ups to email or a browser, the other a more typical set-up. I refuse to believe I’m that far gone. But I do sometimes wonder if I weren’t online so much, would the books I do write be better? Would I be a faster writer?  I don’t use an outline, so there are times where I’m need to take a break and figure out where the story is going. But I wonder.

Unfortunately, as studies now suggest, I am aware of an increasingly shorter attention span. One report said that people now scan articles rather than read them. Guilty. It’s becoming so bad that I caught myself doing that while reading a novel. And I love to read. Close reading too, so I can appreciate (or trash) the quality of the prose.

That scares me. I don’t want to lose my ability to focus. So I’m trying to clean up my act, so to speak. A mental spring cleaning.

I’ve recently unsubscribed to a bunch of emails that were clogging up my inbox and distracting me. I’ve also deleted a lot of my bookmarks. I’ve quit a lot of groups that I never visited much to begin with, and  I’ve discovered a very useful button. Did you know you can turn off your email and close your browser for a couple of hours, and the world doesn’t come to a screeching halt?

An on-off switch. What a concept.

It seems to be helping. It’s been easier to make revisions on Nobody’s Child, and I’m feeling more satisfied. But I know I’m only scratching the surface, so I’d really like your help— What do you do to break through the internet fog ? How do you stay focused?