The Cure for Internet Addiction

1940s technology might save the day.

Seriously, Jonathan Frantzen wrote The Corrections blindfolded?

So this article on writers coping with Internet distraction claims. Since most of my work requires copious reference to notes and text — and since I am a lousy touch-typist — the blindfold would not work. I understand what this guy did, however:

Born in 1985, [Ned] Beauman is a digital native – he has spent the entirety of his adult life surrounded by digital technology. Yet despite being immersed in the internet from an early age, Beauman is not immune to its power to distract, and he employs a level of computing trickery that makes Zadie Smith look like a Luddite.

“There are five layers of technological solutions I use,” he explains. “I edit my host file to block some websites, but that’s too coarse grain. I use K9, which is a parental control application, to block certain pages within websites, and I use an ad-blocker, not to block adverts, but to block the comment sections of many sites. And when I’m working I use Nanny for Google Chrome and SelfControl to block certain websites.”

The sites he blocks that cause so much distraction? “Virtually all newspaper and magazine websites as well as blogs and Twitter. And,” he says with amusing candour, “I also block things relating to my career that it’s probably best not to look at.”

Or maybe you just walk away from the computer and try something else. M. found this late 1940s portable typewriter for next to nothing and gave it to me for  my birthday. It dates from when Smith-Corona was able to stop making M1903 rifles and other war matériel and go back to its core business — typewriters.

Of course, I had to ship it off to an old-school typewriter-repair shop in eastern Pennsylvania (Where did all the typewriter repairmen go? Rhetorical question.) and have it reconditioned at no small expense.

Then I sat down to write a letter to a friend in England and, guess what, I could not stop to read a blog or check the weather radar for a thunderstorm. It was liberating.

I keep thinking that I should go into the city, find a Starbucks, order a double cappuccino, pull out my  Smith-Corona “Silent,” and get to work.

But — like its rival the Remington “Noiseless” — it is not.


7 thoughts on “The Cure for Internet Addiction

  1. Maggie

    In our house the solution was to buy another laptop. One gets used for surfing the web, answering e-mail, etc etc … the other gets used for serious writing, and banking. The ‘serious’ computer has one e-mail address which is given to NO ONE, and only used for sending documents to the ‘public’ computer.

    So far, it’s working.

  2. Medeine Ragana

    I first learned to type when I was 10 on an old machine like this. When I went to high school, we were required to take a typing class on those really old 1930 typewriters that you had to pound on the keys in order to get it to work. In the 1960s, I had a portable typewriter on which I wrote what is now considered to be “fan fiction” but I didn’t know that then as the other other folks who saw what I wrote were my other classmates.

    In the 1980s I got a portable typewriter because I expected to be moving to a small acreage where I’d do homesteading. That didn’t happen until 1998. I finally had to get rid of the typewriter because I could never find a ribbon for it!!!

    So where are you getting your ribbons? Probably the internet? ::chuckle::

  3. Pitch313

    When surfing the interwebz gets in the way of your seriouz creative writing, then, I agreez–you can goez retro! Even to the reversion therapy of manual typewriting.

    But the computer and applications that carry out many, many operations related to creative writing–and to the design of documents–is probably a humungous net advantage to creative, even academic/technical, writing. Evidence is that we no longer manually type all the heaps and legions and archives of documents that make our postmodern and paper (-less? means more!)lives and affairs possible. (Aslantly, what about speech-to-type applications, which, I suspect, are used to produce a fair crop of creative literature?)

    OK! I confess that I still have both the manual Smith-Corona typewriter on which I typed out my high school papers and early practices of poetry. And the spiffy-for-the-time Olivetti electric typewriter that mobilized my DIY publishing hobby back in the Apples were made with wood day. From–Typetypetype. Cutcutcut. Pastepastepaste. Copycopycopy. Mailmailmail. To–Type. Word process. Grafik. Pagemaking. Emailing.

    I gotta declare that the only way they’ll get my fingers off my computer’s keyboard–and my creative process out of computer applications–is to shut down the complete and entire world power grid…Creative flow-wise, the computer writing tool kit and I are as one!(As the previous paragraph reveals, however, I am prepped for such eventualities as power outages!)

    1. Medeine Ragana

      As far as “shutting down the powergrid”…. Cripes! That happens here where I live at least once a month, and not necessarily due to storms. Last year when we had tornadoes? Power was on throughout the whole mess. A few months later – skies clear as a bell, not even a cloud – no electricity. Why? Beats me. I asked the local power company and their answer was, “probably a squirrel got into the transformer box.” Go figure!

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