Today, I’m thinking about the internet.
I’ve been without access to the internet for a couple of days. At the time of writing this post, I’m not even sure I’ll be able to upload it, or contact anyone to let them know if I can’t.
My original article has been put on hold (because I can’t get access to the internet to do the research it requires), and instead I’m thinking about the internet.
As many of you know, I live in rural Australia, where the intense heat and humidity seem to make the wi-fi melt out of the air, leaving me unable to connect to anyone or anything outside my own house. (Yes, I know that’s not how the internet works… But I don’t have a better explanation for why I lose internet on hot, humid days.) So, while I hear/read lots of writers talking about ways to get off the internet to enable them to concentrate on writing, I often find myself with the opposite problem in the summer months.
I’m old enough to remember a time before the internet was really a thing. To remember the early days of ICQ chats and message boards and image-free webpages that took upwards of a minute to load. But I’m also young enough that I reach instinctively for my phone when I find myself wondering who that actor is, or where I’ve heard a phrase before, or who sings that song that’s stuck on infinite repeat in the back of my mind.
Without the internet, I feel somewhat lost. Not just in life (although, that too) but in writing.
I’m not just thinking about the internet. I’m thinking about the often surprising ways I use it to improve my writing.
It’s through the internet that I stay in touch with my writing friends, and my critique partners – most of whom are located on the other side of the world. Most of whom wouldn’t even be my friends or critique partners without the internet.
I can fact-check without leaving the comfort of my chair, and look up historical facts with ease. I can check (for the seven thousandth time) whether my sentence requires the word ‘lay’ or ‘lie’. I can look at satellite images of the city where my story is set, and talk – often in real time – to people who live there.
My search history is littered with bizarre questions and topics – often things I wouldn’t be comfortable asking a real person.
- How do you poison bats?
- What would the body of a poisoned bat look like?
- Is there another name for a plunger?
- Do Americans use the term ‘lounge room’?
- How tall is a stone wall? (No, really… )
Without the internet, I obviously wouldn’t have discovered this amazing community, and I wouldn’t have the pleasure of writing for Writer Unboxed each month. I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to travel to the other side of the world to attend the Unconference (twice) and transform so many names-on-the-screen into dear friends and colleagues.
There’s a certain romance to the idea of retreating into a cabin in the woods with nothing but a typewriter and a head full of ideas (and food, obviously), but for all its promises of productivity, I’d miss the internet.
I do miss the internet.
Yes, the internet can be procrastination heaven; the non-stop news cycle is mentally exhausting; too much social media can be soul-destroying; and there are only so many cat videos you can watch before you realise that your time would have been better spent actually putting words on the page.
Nonetheless, my writing life would be so much poorer without it.
What about you?
Do you have a love/hate relationship with the internet? What surprising ways do you use the internet to make your writing better?
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