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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Life Without the Interwebs

I'm addicted to the Interwebs. It's probably pretty obvious for those of you who have any idea how much time I spend on the net and how much time I waste with net things—or don't waste, for that matter. It didn't really hit me until I flew in to London last week and spent the better part of a week gallivanting across the English countryside with my fiancĂ©, net not included.

Now, I'm not saying that I was having withdrawals. This post is more about the things involved in my writing that have become dependent on Internet access. Research, for example, is almost always done with Google. I can't remember the last time I did research via another method, to be honest.

While on vacation, I started writing a new short story (tentatively titled "Waking Odin") and got to a point where I had to literally make things up because I had no way of getting access to mythological information (it's somewhat difficult to drag around a collection of encyclopedias, after all). It put a block on my writing, because the information I needed was integral to the story, and without access to it, well, it was somewhat difficult to do anything with the characters.

It forced me to re-evaluate not only how I write, but how I research for my writing. We've become a culture attached at the hip to the net, in more ways than one. So much of what we used to do manually (the old "dig it up in a book" method) has largely been replaced by a more "automated" method (the new "dig it up on the net" thing). Most of us do this, strangely enough, and it has to do with the fact that information has become so readily accessible via the net. We don't really need encyclopedias anymore and most of us stopped using software-based informational programs a long time ago.

But what would happen to us if the net were suddenly wrenched out from under us? Would we as a society (speaking primarily of western culture here) fall apart at the seams? I obviously found that my inability to access the information I needed for a character an impossible thing to work around. It drastically influenced my writing, because the character had to be vague, rather than fleshed out, something I'll have to go back and change later.

The result of all this is that I am resolved to find myself a software-based, thorough encyclopedia and mythological reference (something that auto-updates entries when you are online would be nice). We'll see what I can find.

Now I'll point this to you: Look at your own writing. How has the Interwebs changed the way you write? Do you see an "addiction" too? Will thinking about this change how you write from this point on?

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  1. I actually couldn't find most of the stuff I used for Robin Hood research offline without going to other parts of the country to look at unusual manuscripts. My uni library had a couple of books, fortunately, with the oldest ballads in them, but for the rest I had to rely on the web. Information on Robin Hood in Encarta, another software encyclopaedia, and my physical encyclopaedias (1911! Woo!) was sketchy at best. However, since I didn't have the net at home at that point, I used to spend free periods at uni scouring for stuff, then read through it at home and do writing. So I got the information I needed, but wasn't distracted while I wrote. If I found anything that held me up, I just tagged it, or called him Bob, and moved on. Worked for me.

  2. I would likely brainstorm worldbuilding questions myself--the Web just helps me keep it organized

  3. I go to the library for the bulk of my research, at least for class. Like I have six or seven books in my room from the campus library about the portrayal of women in Shakespearean literature...

    I use the internet mainly to plan events with friends and as a fancy typewriter.

  4. Ellira: How long ago was that, though? I wonder how much of that information you had to dig up in old books is now available online...maybe some of it, maybe none of it, maybe all of it, who knows?
    Generally I agree that software encyclopedias are not always the best, but they can at least provide accurate and very basic information, which can be extremely useful if all you are looking for at any given moment is basic information. Like when I was writing: I just needed a good mythical god to work with and some basic info about who said god was. Encarta probably could have provided that.

    SparklingBlue: Well, what if you're working with something that requires you to get the info? Say you're trying to write a modern version of a myth, but you don't remember the details?

    Nick: I should use the library more...I really should.