Should Writers Shut Off The internet Machine?

ONE of the reasons (among many) that I’ve been an infrequent blogger of late is that I’m trying to write a book. My writing habit is, simply, sitting my ass down in a chair for two hours a day, turning off all of my devices and connections, and putting pen to legal pad. That’s the rough draft. On weekends, I type (and make revisions to) what I’ve written. That’s my first draft.

But writing, for me, goes beyond the physical time spent doing it. My work takes up a lot of the space in my head. When I’m walking down the street, doing my “day job” or even talking with people, the “work” is absorbing, bouncing, rejecting, fiddling, tweaking, shooting off sparks from time to time. Often, the first thing I write when I sit down the next day is an idea that occurred to me when I was doing something completely divorced from the book.

So, I was really taken by Anand Giridharardas’ essay in a recent NYTIMES (and here, on his blog):

A New, Noisier Way of Writing | Anand Giridharadas – Columnist and Author of India Calling.

There are no prescriptives here, no easy answers. But he lays out the quandary quite well: how open SHOULD you be about your work, about your opinions, about your thinking. Is the “long thought” still valued, the “considered opinion” still something worth striving for? I think yes (of course! I’m a blogger!)…

What Anand doesn’t address is the condition of most writers — we have day jobs. That’s been the state of things through most of history, and it’s really only in the post WWII era that we’ve developed this “writing industry.” (A recent article in the Atlantic talks about how it might actually be a good thing that writers are involved in the day-to-day world. The constant friction of daily life keeps us from being too other-worldly, too of-ourselves.

The old saying goes: “Journalism is the first draft of history.” More and more, I think social media is the rough draft of history, a step (like my legal pad and pen) before the rough draft. It’s the rough and tumble of the original thought, and I think it may, over the next generation or so, end up becoming a part of the process.

What say you?

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