July 25

Are Google and Pinterest Killing Your Writing Career?

    Staring at your computer screen.
    Knowing that you need to write.
    Waiting for the words to come.

    What is the worst thing you could do in a moment like this?

    Open your web browser. Oh, yes, it’s an addictive habit, one that’s easy to justify. We tell these little lies to ourselves, but it’s time to call ourselves out for an honesty check before we accidentally kill our own writing career.

    14-07-25 #writersproblems

    The lies we tell ourselves as we open up a web browser:

    “I’ll just do a little more research on this one thing, real quick, and that’ll make this next section more clear.”

    False. Okay, sure, maybe you do need to fact check something, but you don’t need to do it right now. You can put an asterisks in your manuscript to remind you to check that detail and just keep writing. If you open up your browser, though, even to do a quick Google search, you’ll inevitably fall down into the abyss of reading article after article, eventually forgetting what you were looking for in the first place.

    “I’ll just browse for ideas/inspiration for a few minutes.”

    Nope, it’s not going to happen. Sure, you’ll find what other people are writing about, but by immersing yourself in other writers’ topics, words, and ideas, you begin to lose something of your own identity and purpose.

    “I’ll just check Facebook/Twitter/Social media drug of choice really quick.”

    C’mon, are we seriously still telling ourselves this lie? A quick social media check always turns into 15-30 minutes of delving into other random peoples’ lives.

    But here’s the biggest lie of all: You’re waiting for that eureka moment, right?

    When we feel stuck and we’re tempted to open up that web browser for a quick research, inspiration, or distraction, the real lie that we’re telling ourselves is that our eureka moment will surely hit us when we least expect it.

    And, yet, we’re actively sabotaging any chance we have of eureka moment.

    Steven Johnson discusses that great ideas don’t really come out of sudden eureka moments. Instead, they “fade into view over long periods of time.” Johnson elaborates, saying;

    “If you go back and look at the historical record, it turns out that a lot of important ideas have very long incubation periods. I call this the ‘slow hunch.’ We’ve heard a lot recently about hunch and instinct and blink-like sudden moments of clarity, but in fact, a lot of great ideas linger on, sometimes for decades, in the back of people’s minds. They have a feeling that there’s an interesting problem, but they don’t quite have the tools to discover them yet” (TED Talk: “Where Good Ideas Come From”).

    What’s the best way to get back to writing, then?

    Your best ideas are not hidden behind that “next” arrow on the Google search page. Your highest moment of inspiration is not one more “scroll down” on Pinterest. Your eureka moment is not in one of the comments on your friend’s status update.

    Once you admit these truths to yourself, you can get back to your real work, which will probably happen in these phases:

    First, you must have faith that your eureka moment is incubating, that each chunk of time you set aside to ponder your research is adding to layers of understanding, which eventually develop into fuller clarity on your research.

    Second, the real work of writing requires intentionally setting aside time for reflection and deep thought; you need scheduled, uninterrupted time to ponder. If it’s challenging to find time when others won’t interrupt you, it’s even more challenging to find time when you’re not interrupting your own train of thought.

    Third, the writing. Oh, yes, the writing. It can be frustrating to piece together words that convey your mind to your reader. But there’s no way around the painful process of trial and error. You sit in your chair, stare at your keyboard, and type some sentences and paragraphs. Then, you’ll ponder some more. Write some more, simply trying your best, knowing that your words are imperfect, but at least they are an attempt.

    Somewhere in this iterative process of pondering and writing, your eureka moment will come. But not if you open that web browser during the time when you should schedule uninterrupted time for deep thought and writing.

    Sure, you can have fun goof-off time in between work sessions, but don’t lie to yourself. Opening your web browser to Google, Pin, and Facebook stalk random people does not get you any closer to your eureka moment.

    How do you fight the temptation to open your web browser in moments of weakness?

    Do you use timers or motivational techniques or apps? Share in the comments, and help other writers discover ways to resist!


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