Flooded With Moonlight

Unmoored in midnight water,
No waves, no wind–
The empty boat is
Flooded with moonlight.
                    —Dogen
Though this quote by Dogen brings a note of peace, it arrived during a perfect storm.
I came across the quote a few days ago. I wasn’t surprised I liked it–after all, it projects a beautiful image. But I was surprised at how it has drifted in and out of my mind several times since reading it. “Why?” I ask myself.
Recently, perhaps due to the New Year, the winds of previous discussions with my writerly friends have whipped up–discussions on the challenges of balancing the highly-preached importance of social networking with the actual act of writing. Balance? What’s balance? For me, I must admit that in the last several weeks, my social networking time has devoured my writing time.
One friend suggested he was addicted to the Internet. Addicted? Could I be addicted, too? Perhaps the very nature of an addiction is denial. Has my “excuse” of needing to build a social presence been a ruse in my own denial?
Let’s consider:
1) I sometimes lose track of the amount of time I’ve spent online.
2) I sometimes feel guilty about the amount of time I spend online.
3) I have trouble focusing on other tasks.
An addiction? Sounds a little too close for comfort. One thing I will admit is that being online is hardly being “unmoored.” And there’s no doubt that the Internet is rife with high waves and too much wind. The perfect storm. No wonder moonlight has evaded me.
The New York Times posted an article, “The Rise of the New Groupthink,” which discusses the new philosophy of “groupthink”–that creativity comes from sharing ideas, brainstorming, etc. (Social networking?) However, research suggests that people are more creative in a private environment, free from interruption. I agree completely. I need privacy and interruption-free time to fully get into my story and my characters. One little interruption, whether it is the tiniest glance at Facebook or Twitter, a nudge by my dogs or a question from my husband, snaps me out of my story’s world and back to reality. And, the trip back to Storyland is a far, far distance. Sometimes too far.
So, my — our dilemma — as writers is, how do we balance our need for solitary space and time to create, with the (unfortunate?) necessity to maintain an online presence? Obviously, I have not been successful at both — at least not lately.
So, here is my solution. I’m going to check myself into a detox facility. Well, kind of. I’ve created an Internet Dead Zone in my house. Is it really Internet Dead? No, it’s not. But I’m a writer, and I have an imagination. I’ve added a sign to the door to my home office:
Every day, I’ll check myself into my Internet Dead Zone for at least two hours, where I’ll write or edit, and where I pledge not to turn my wireless on.
If I don’t suffer too badly from withdrawal symptoms, I’ll graduate to an Internet free day, but, as they say, one step at a time. I feel my hands sweating even as I consider it.
Still, I must admit, I’m looking forward to this little experiment. I’ll let you know how it goes — outside of my Internet Dead Zone, of course.
I look forward to being flooded with moonlight. Ah, just the thought of it . . .
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24 Responses to Flooded With Moonlight

  1. A really good discussion of the guilty pleasure that social networking tempts us with daily, and nightly. Like fast food, it's always available.A few points:1. Humans are social creatures. Interaction with others is at the heart of our nature, I believe, so social networking is an alluring way of just doing what we do naturally.2. Social networking is stimulating and rewarding. It's sharing brainspace with others. If two heads are better than one, ten or twenty must be a high voltage mental jolt.3. I think, if you concentrate, you can write anywhere, no matter the distrations. We have an incredible ability to "tune out." Sure, go for ideal conditions, but don't make your writing environment an excuse.4. Isolation can be as real a sin as being overly social, and if you overbalance in that direction, you'll end up needing a vacation from yourself. This is the end of the problem I'm on.But, bottom line, I'm constantly amazed and elated by by social networking friends and all the smiles, info and sharing that takes place, coming in from all over the place. There is a tendancy to discredit these relationships because they take place in cyberspace, but the truth is they can be as supercilious or meaningful as you want to make them.Thanks, Jan. Great blog. Two hours a day still leaves you 22 to social network. See you there.

  2. Ruth says:

    Ask and answer yourself, "What did I do before the internet? Before cell phones? Before twitter,facebook, and texting?Flood yourself with moonlight and wrap the beams around you. Lose yourself in the magic and the far away world of made-up characters, locations,and stories. Give little care to the wild world outside that office door.Here's a challenge just for Dixie Ruth: write anything, poem, short story, flash fiction, one sentence of pure fantasy! Let you mind conjure and your fingers fly no matter where they lead you. Don't stop to think, "that's silly." Don't be logical, Miss Spock. Be the Jan that wished apon those stars in the deep, dark night and magic of the breaking dawn. Do Jimnie Cricket proud. Write, Jan, write.I dare you!Write, Jan, write.

  3. mgmillerbooks says:

    I can't write with distractions, either. And I've already reached the internet free zone. The email message alerts every few minutes was the worst of it. I can say that I'm not addicted, though. Sometimes I'll go for two or three days without it. And it's grand!

  4. Jan, you're right and it's a good idea. For months I've lived on this danged Internet, and I've had enough. I mean it. I never leave it turned on when I work, and only check for messages just before time to get off for the day. I think that helps me more than anything. Just turning it off and working has been the problem. But I will, I swear I will. Just as soon as I fill Jan and Feb with blogs I can guest on or host. Okay?

  5. ed_quixote says:

    Some writer of note, Raymond Carver? John Cheever? used to retire to a shed in his back yard to write. Just four walls, nothing more, no distractions, no interruptions.

  6. Jan Morrill says:

    Thank you, Ron. You make some good points. I guess the fact that humans are social creatures is one reason social networking holds such an appeal. And yes, there I've received many rewards through connections I've made. So, I doubt there's much need to worry about my isolating myself. :)

  7. Jan Morrill says:

    You're such a good friend and motivator, Ruth. I "secluded" myself for about 90 minutes today, and it worked! Sachi's mama has been talking her head off today. :)

  8. Jan Morrill says:

    I'm glad I'm not the only one, Mike. In my Internet free zone today, I was completely distraction free. And, as I said above to Ruth, "Mama's been talking."Two or three days without Internet? Now there's something to try to achieve.

  9. Jan Morrill says:

    Funny, Velda, how so many seminars we take these days have to do with how to use the Internet to our greatest potential. I think maybe the time has come for us to attend seminars on how to stay away from the Internet to get some writing done. :)

  10. Jan Morrill says:

    Ned, just another situation where we could learn something from the past. All this new technology sure is convenient, but I often wonder what it's doing to us as a society.

  11. Ruth says:

    Oh, hot damn! I love hearing Mama opened up to you. Magic happens anywhere and anytime. We only need to be quiet and open-minded.

  12. Jan Morrill says:

    Ruth, as we speak, she's on a ship making her way across the Pacific to meet Michio, and feeling quite nauseous from the combined morning sickness and seasickness!

  13. Oh man… I have definitely thought about all of these things, but hearing you lay it out definitely hits a nerve. I am SO bad about this. I'll go to my coffee shop (yes I just used the word MY) and I'll be all ready to write, then I'll tell myself "well, why not just check twitter/facebook/blogger while you have your first cup, just as a way of warming up." WHAT?! What does that even mean?! Then, two hours later I've not written a thing. Okay… the idea of an "internet free zone" needs some consideration… I've finally broken myself of the habit of bringing my laptop to bed with me, so going internet-free for a few designated hours a day would probably work wonders!

  14. Jan Morrill says:

    Lauren, I banished myself to the IFZ yesterday, for about 90 minutes. I must say, I got more editing and new writing done than I have in a long time. Yep, it was hard not flipping on that Wi-Fi button, but I kept looking at my IFZ sign, and managed to leave it off. I hope you'll give it a try.It's probably a good thing I'm married, otherwise, I'd bring my laptop to bed, too. My husband probably wouldn't say anything about it, but I know him well enough to know he wouldn't appreciate it. :)

  15. Mike says:

    A great post Jan and one that certainly got me thinking.I'm not sure if I want an 'Internet Dead Zone'. I agree the Internet is a distraction and, like you, I sometimes wonder if I'm not a little too addicted to it, but I also find it a great stimulant. You never know when that odd tweet or comment on your blog is going to link you to a great writing prompt or wonderful blog post that is going to get you writing (just like yours is doing right now).I have a Studio at the bottom of the garden (my wife calls it a shed!) where I sometimes go to write – but I've made sure it has a WiFi connection.My favourite coffee shop, somewhere else to disappear to and hopefully write, also has a great Internet connection. I'd be lost without it.We live in a truly connected world. One where it is so easy for me to talk with other writers around the globe. I'm with Ron when he says we are social creatures and need to interact with one another – too much isolation is not good for you.

  16. Jan Morrill says:

    Thanks, Mike. But don't worry, I'll only be "disconnected" for a few hours a day, because I, too, am a social creature. :)

  17. Beth says:

    First of all, how do you have such a clean desk? Mine is a mess. Too many WIP's.I think blogging, FB, and Twitter are very addictive and I bet there will be counselors for this in the not-too-distant future. And a new career path for project manager types to "help" people stay focused and off of the Internet. Mark my word!I know I'm spending way too much time online. I told myself I'd get off at noon today, and here it is almost 1 p.m. Lately, I've even found myself taking my iPad and checking it at stoplights or sitting in a parking lot checking blog posts anther than going into a store! Too much. I tell myself it's so I can catch up and free up time to write once I get home, however, the real writing always gets shoved aside.I love your idea of an Internet-free zone and must do that myself. What a great experiment! I think two-three hours/day is very reasonable. I want to join you on this journey. Great idea, Jan!Lastly, I also agree that the social aspect is welcoming especially since a writer's life is so solitary. That's the real attraction for me–connecting with like-minded folks, building a platform, reading everyone's great work, refreshing FB one more time, and, and, and…

  18. Beth says:

    Side note: My husband is a reasonable, patient, sweet guy, but he's sick of all the time I spend online. He bought this iPad for me for my b'day, and I think he's sorry he did. He recently asked me to shut it down at 6 p.m. because he "wanted his wife back." That's a reasonable request (but early!) Anyone else have a spouse who resents their online life taking away from the real one right in front of them?!!!

  19. Claire says:

    After my rant on Monday about the hours I spend online, I decided to be absent from social media for a few days. I'm amazed at the amount of writing I accomplished in that time. I never realized how distracted I get when that little icon flashes announcing new e-mail or how the number indicating a comment on Facebook flickers. It's been amazing and I'm going to work up to longer internet-free increments. Best of luck! I'm sure you'll love it.

  20. Jan Morrill says:

    Beth, though my husband hasn't complained outright, I know very well that he doesn't appreciate all the time I spend online, even though I try to convince him it's necessary as a writer. :)Usually, when we're together, I try not to be online – especially at night. But the fact that it's so difficult, and I have to struggle to ignore my the call of my computer: "Over here, Jan. I have something to tell you," means I might have a little problem. :)

  21. Jan Morrill says:

    That all sounds painfully familiar, Beth. But on the other hand, without social networking, I'd never have met you!And no, my desk isn't always that clean. I straightened it a bit before taking the picture. :)Okay, I'm off to the IDZ in just a few – if I don't get distracted on the way, that is.

  22. Jan Morrill says:

    Claire, I tried it yesterday, and DID love it. Kind of like exercising today. I dreaded getting on that rowing machine, but as soon as I did, I loved it. I guess it's all a matter of making myself get past that stage of dread. Maybe I'm being passively aggressive with myself. HA!

  23. Russell says:

    Internet Addiction Counselor, what a great character. I bet Ned could make a great story around that profession.Personally, I'm just going to hold out till it becomes a disability and see if they will mail me a check.

  24. Pingback: My New Writer Space | Jan Morrill Writes

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