Why I'm Glad the Internet Didn't Exist When I Was a Beginner

 By Jody Hedlund, @JodyHedlund

Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, writers wrote without the internet. And no, that's not taken from a page in a science-fiction novel. It's the truth.

I started writing over twenty years ago during the time when we actually had to go the library and use big thick reference books to locate names, addresses, and query instructions for publishers.

Those were the days when writers had to print out their manuscript, rubber-band the pages together, and send it by mail. Then we had to drive to the post office, get our manuscript weighed, and include a self-addressed, stamped, return envelope.

Okay, so maybe I don't miss everything about the good ol' days. In fact, there are many, many benefits to the internet, and I'm the first to admit that I absolutely adore having connections and information just a click away.

But even though I love the modern information age, I am SO glad I didn't have the internet around when I first began my writing journey. For as many benefits as the internet affords for research, industry information, and writing friendships, it can also be a huge roadblock for beginning writers in several ways:

1. The internet is a distraction to quality writing time.

I think this is the number ONE reason I resent the internet. Social media is there right in front of our faces ALL THE TIME. No matter where we go or what we do, the internet is clamoring for our attention. Instead of using our down time for the thinking and dreaming that are essential to a creative life, we fill every quiet space with some form of entertainment, including the internet.

Often we leave very little time to study the craft of writing because we're too busy online (including downloading free e-books about how to write!).

Sometimes our internet activities take large chunks away from our limited writing time. Instead of opening up our story and working on it, we let precious minutes (or hours) slip through our fingers because we're busy blogging or checking twitter.

Not only does it keep us FROM studying the craft or our working on our stories, but it also distracts us WHILE we're writing. During a moment of writer's block or even just a few seconds of ruminating about our stories, it's all too easy to fill that important "thinking" time with the noise of the internet. Since it's only a screen away, we have to battle the temptation to "take breaks" from our writing.

That constant, quick, ever-changing stream of information on the internet has a detrimental effect on our ability to concentrate for the longer periods that we need so that we can move past the periphery of our writing minds and tap the deeper creative zones. It usually takes me an hour or two of steady writing before I reach the back woods of my mind. But if we're constantly interrupting the flow to check the internet, then we miss out on the uncharted, unique areas that provide the gold mines to our stories.

2. All of the well-meaning advice can be confusing.

The second reason I'm glad that I could write in oblivion in the days before the internet, is that I wasn't surrounded by the loads and loads of writing advice. While some of it is very good, solid advice, it can be overwhelming to a beginner. It can lead to undue discouragement, the "will I ever be good enough" syndrome.

And if everyone is following the same advice, it can even lead to a mechanical, one-size-fits-all writing.

3. The open-window on the writing world leads to discontentment and impatience.

Finally, I think if I'd had the internet when I'd been writing my first book or two, I would have begun to feel the pressure to be further along than I really was.

The internet allows us to peek into the lives of anyone we want to follow. We can see every intimate detail of their writing life, listen to their accolades, and chart their progress. And while that can spur us to work harder, it can also make us feel left behind, fostering impatience for where we're at in our writing journeys.

It may even push us into publishing before we're truly ready.

I'm glad for the many years I had to study, grow, and practice my writing skills before I jumped into publication. All of those years of honing my skills set the foundation for where I'm at today. But I'm not so sure I would have taken the time to grow if I'd started in today's current internet writing world with the constant pressure to move fast and keep up with everyone else.

So what about you? In what ways does the internet keep you from being a better writer? Do you ever wish you could write without it?

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