Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Cyber Slippage

I discovered I’ve read 14 of the 35 Whitney Award finalists. Not bad, huh? That’s a decent dent in the reading pile. And since the deadline for Academy ballots isn’t until April 20th, that means if I read about two books per week, I’ll finish them all. That would be exciting. I’ve never yet managed to read every finalist. We’ll see if I make it this year (yes, I’ve already read the thousand-page The Way of Kings—I figured it would be a finalist, so I made sure to read it beforehand, knowing I wouldn’t have time after the announcement). In order to vote for Best Novel of the Year, Academy members have to read all 35 finalists. I might be able to read them all this year, but that will involve . . . er . . . discipline. Translated: close my email, get off Facebook, quit checking Twitter, ignore that Google reader, and go READ A BOOK.

I have this problem. I . . . um . . . waste too much time online. When I want to relax, I open my computer. But instead of quickly checking my email and glancing at Twitter and then working on a writing project, or girls camp stuff—yes, it’s already time to work on girls camp—or something else productive, I tend to putter around on email, reading blogs, Facebook, etc. And twenty minutes pass, or thirty, or forty-five, and what have I accomplished? Almost nothing, unless you count the networking benefits of dropping in on blogs or social media sites. It’s so easy to let the minutes slip away, and if I do that multiple times a day . . . that’s a lot of slipping minutes.

I do love the Internet. It’s strange now to think back to what life was like without it. I needed a zip code for a Missouri town the other day. Went to Google, and almost instantly, I had my answer. What would I have done before the days of Google? Called the post office? Gone to the library and looked it up? I don’t know. Now, we take it for granted that information of all kinds is available immediately. And what would my life as a writer have been like, pre-Internet? Now, almost everything is done electronically. A decade and a half ago, when I wanted to send my manuscript to my sister, I put the whole giant stack of papers in a binder, packed it in a box, and mailed it to her. Sounds really old-fashioned now, doesn’t it? Sort of Pony Express-like.

Along with the ease of sending manuscripts around electronically, the Internet allows me to interact with other authors and readers in a way I never would have been able to do otherwise. Since I live away from the center of LDS publishing, without online communication, I would have had very little opportunity to interact with my colleagues and get to know them. The online connections I’ve made with other authors and my ability to participate in the writing community long-distance have been huge blessings in my life.

The Internet is also the main way I communicate with my siblings and parents and with my college daughter. My daughter pops up on Gmail chat and I find out what's going on in her life--like the fact that she was down to bread and Pasta Roni yesterday, poor child. But any good thing can become a not-so-good thing if not used wisely, and I fear I've not been using my online time as wisely as I should. So now I'm setting the goal to not let so much time slip away into cyberspace--and maybe I'll be able to finish reading all 21 remaining finalists. How about you? How do you keep the Internet from becoming a timesink--while still reaping the benefits of cyberspace?


10 Comments:

At 2/02/2011 3:08 PM, Blogger Jon Spell said...

Well, I was going to try to get some work done today, but I decided to read your blog instead. =)

I've gotten pretty good at just taking little breaks and reading a couple of things online that interest me, then popping back into my next task. It's the big message boards like BCC that pull me in and get me reading these long comment trails and, um, how much time has passed since I started? Eeep.

So, here's my question: do you have a prediction on Best Mystery this year? (You don't have to specify it and influence votes) Just curious as to whether you have your own pick? You were wrong last year! =) (Pleasantly.)

 
At 2/02/2011 3:24 PM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

It's a little embarrassing to admit that yes, here I am online . . .

Yes, I have a prediction, and this year, I'm correct :) I'll email it to you so you'll have a record of my ability to predict the future.

 
At 2/02/2011 3:39 PM, Blogger Jordan McCollum said...

Last time I looked (~2003), the Post Office actually had a telephone-book-like index of ZIP codes. I'll bet they'd have it at the library, too.

Now you know. ;)

You've read twice as many of the finalists as I have. Awesome for you! (If I wanted to join the academy and vote, I only have 2 books in the mystery and 3 books left in the YA speculative categories, so I'd shoot for those first. Though I'm terribly biased by knowing some of the authors. Hardly fair ;) .)

 
At 2/02/2011 4:49 PM, Blogger Wendy Swore said...

After living with a broken cell phone for months, we broke down and bought iphones and an awesome little free app on there is HoursTracker . I put my main "jobs" on there (housework, editing, writing, exercising, farming, taxes) as well as websurfing. Now I know how much time I spend doing everything. Anyway, it's been a fun way to keep me on task because I know if I get sidetracked from writing, I need to clock out of writing and clock into surfing. (That might sound hard, but it's easy)

 
At 2/02/2011 5:25 PM, Blogger Michael Knudsen said...

That's a tough one, and the only way I've beat the situation is to set appointments: No going online until 7pm, or whatever. Unfortunately, even looking up something on Wikipedia while writing can be a huge trap, and before I know it I'm off on the blogs again. Why did they have to make it as easy as a click to get to these places? Why don't they demand 10 pull-ups? Then I'd be in great shape!

 
At 2/03/2011 10:15 AM, Blogger Jennie said...

I don't see any possible way I can read the fifteen finalists I haven't already read. I already read two to four books a week just to pick one to review.
I suspect there are a lot of us who spend more time in cyber space than we should. I try to limit myself to a couple of brief look ins each day on social networks, but when there's something under discussion I'm really interested in . . .well there goes my good intentions. And research can be either a frustrating search all over the map or it can lead to fascinating trivia that leads to . . .

 
At 2/03/2011 11:56 AM, Blogger Heather B. Moore said...

lol, Stephanie. I am already puttering around the internet today. Must get back to work!

 
At 2/03/2011 8:00 PM, Blogger Shanda said...

I'm finally commenting two hours after opening this comment window, then searching for the HoursTracker app Wendy mentioned and installing it on my iPod, then looking at more apps while I was in iTunes, sending a few emails, texting my sis & hubby, starting my makeup so I can leave the house tonight, checking email, then coming back to this window to finally comment so I can close it. I sure hope that HoursTracker app can help me because obviously I need it!

 
At 2/04/2011 9:12 AM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

Thanks for the comments and suggestions! So far I'm doing . . . not very well at my goal. Guess I'd better try harder . . .

 
At 2/05/2011 2:03 PM, Blogger Kimberley Griffiths Little said...

HoursTracker sounds fab! I have a Blackberry - hopefully it has an app like that.

My problem is trying to read too many blogs (I'm in the several hundreds in number of blogs, reviewers, agents, editors, authors, I try to keep up with.) SO hard - and I'm failing miserably lately. I hate to miss online friend's news, but I'm getting weary with the household, toddlers, church callings, reading and writing deadlines. Sleep time is suffering! As well as time to read. And keep up with scriptures and the Ensign, too. :-)

 

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