I had one of those days yesterday where I think all the answers to my life are on the internet.
Not coincidentally, the Please-Internet-Make-Me-Feel-Better-About-Myself Days often happen when I’m working on something scary or overwhelming or incredibly meaningful, i.e. the days when my Resistance Machine is working at full tilt. As I talked about a little while ago–as inspired by Steven Pressfield’s must-read TheWar of Art–Resistance is an insidious force that pops up in all of us in a multitude of ways and always has one goal: to keep you from making and doing the things you are meant to do.
And the internet is Resistance’s best fucking friend in the world.
Case in point: yesterday, when I was getting ready to start chopping apart the most recent draft of my second book, to officially start rewriting in the hopes that I will, within approximately fifty or so days, end up with a Much Better Version of said book, I couldn’t truly buckle down. I worked, but in drips and drabs, always somehow finding my way back to my email or my Twitter feed or a Variety article about who might be directing some Marvel movie coming out in 2033.
We’re all aware, of course, that the internet is antithetical to getting work done. This is not news. Most writers will tell you that if you want a prayer at any sort of productivity, you should turn your wi-fi off.
It is a lesson I am forced to learn again and again.
Because Resistance is so powerfully uncomfortable, it is constantly triggering my Go to the internet button. Yesterday, Resistance was a voice in my head telling me that I have a huge task ahead of me and not a whole lot of time to do it and my next draft better be awesome because I like how the first book turned out and right now the second book is simply Not As Good.
Yes, here again, a classic case of Awesomeism happening. It’s a daily problem.
That Resistant voice in my head makes me feel small and powerless and so I run to the internet where I have some control. I can get something else done that will get me my power back! So I come onto this Tumblr and slightly edit one of the sentences in the About section, or I look up the address of a restaurant I might be going to next month. And then, since I’m already internetting, I figure I might as well check my Twitter feed. And then I read some random article about the Knicks, which is beyond dumb because the Knicks are literally the worst team in the NBA this year, so what the hell is there to read about? And then, if I’m going to be really honest here, I end up Googling the title of my book, just to see if new stuff has popped up about it that will make me feel like I have worth in this world.
When I get to that last step, I know the shit has hit the fan: I’m in a full-blown Resistance spiral. Searching sadly and desperately for some piece of affirmation that will right the ship and make me feel like less of a time-wasting failure.
“But it’s too late,” I tell myself. I’ve already gorged myself on too much internet before getting actual work done. The ratio is messed up, and it leaves me with the same empty feeling I get ten minutes after I eat a Wendy’s spicy chicken sandwich.
But on those days when I get right to work as soon as I sit down, and I’m able to push through the struggles, through the discomfort, for at least half an hour, I don’t feel like that. Even if I don’t have a ton to show for it, I feel good, like I’ve done my part, like I’ve earned a quick dip into the internet pool.
Ideally, the ratio would look something like this: fifty minutes of continuous work earns me a fifteen minute break, which would include as much dick-around/email/Twitter time as I want.
Then back to work.
Just so you know, I’m rarely able to maintain this kind of discipline. But I want to.
So here’s one of my intentions for 2015:
Time on the internet will be deliberate and mindful, a reward for a period of work productivity. Once I sit down to work, I can never lead with an internet binge. Never.
Put another way:
The Internet will always be dessert this year, never the main course.
As always, I’m writing things like this mainly as a way of imprinting these ideas into my head and holding myself accountable. So if you find the above words irrelevant to your life, I applaud you. You have an amazing work ethic and you should never change.
But if this resonates with you, then thanks for making this piece part of your internet dessert. Now go get some work done.