Stephanie Burgis
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The Great Internet Experiment
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In the last few days, I’ve started an experiment that is astonishingly radical for me: I’m only allowing myself half an hour online every day, spread out across the day in small chunks. Now, to understand just how radical this feels, you have to understand this: normally the wireless is on in our house all day every day, and my normal internet time probably amounts to at least 4 or 5 hours per day.

It’s been an interesting experiment. One of the things I’ve found out is that half an hour a day online really isn’t enough time for the good parts, what the internet does for me so well: it keeps me feeling connected to all my friends across the world and the writing communities I’m a part of. This is a big deal for me. Writing is an isolated job anyway, and the feeling of community always helps - but in my current situation, on days like today, when I’m alone from 9am till 6pm, and it's very difficult to actually leave the house for stimulation or adventure, the hours can reeeeaallllly stretch and start to feel lonely without that sense of connection and mental escape.

On the other hand…I’m also learning that what I was doing before was too much. And that was illustrated yesterday in the most striking way possible. In the middle of the day, I got bored and restless. My immediate instinct: turn on the wireless! See if there’s anything new online! But I couldn’t, because of my Internet Experiment. So I felt frustrated and even more bored, and in desperation I picked up a book I’d gotten at the library on a whim without ever being terribly interested in it: Kate Williams’s England’s Mistress: The Infamous Life of Emma Hamilton. Within two pages, I was hooked and fascinated by the history, the descriptions of life in an 18th-century mining village and then in the servant’s hall of a middle-class house. Within 10 pages, I had the glimmerings of a new idea. Five minutes later, I’d started a new short story, one that I’m really excited about.

And if the wireless had been turned on, I would never have gotten that far, because I would have already numbed myself out, distracted myself and tuned out all my creative impulses. Hmmm…

It’s a fine line to balance between good, healthy distraction, and bad, numbing-out, killing-time distraction, but I’m doing my best to try to figure it out.

And in a lovely coincidence, the Universe has finally given up its battle to change my literary tastes: Blood Engines arrived this morning! I’m 83 pages in and loving it. Magic, adventure, a vivid San Francisco setting, and a kickass sorceress/crime boss heroine. Just perfect! :)

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