Saturday, February 11, 2012

Internet and research

Yesterday, while writing at my new set up, I ran into one of the first occasions where there would have been some benefit to having the internet handy, and I thought it was an interesting illustration of how much things have changed in the last few years. I’ve noticed before how often I rely on Wikipedia and Google for a quick search for something – a confirmation of a detail, a quick lesson on some technical matter to make sure I have the vocab right. (What did we used to do?) That definitely speeds things up, though arguably it makes a writer more focused on technical issues than on getting into the imaginative space where some real magic can happen.

Yesterday as I was drafting I came to a spot where I wanted to use a real-life song title. I had a sense of the era and style and also of the rhythm of the language that would fit. My recent custom would have been to google “pop hits of 19__,” click a link that looked like it would provide a list, quickly scan the list until I found a title I liked for my purposes and then get back into my draft and kept going.

But, now, no internet. So, instead, I was up and out of my chair wandering around the house looking for reference books and CDs that could help. (I don’t do a very good job of keeping my library organized.) It so happens that I have a coffee table book called “The American Songbook.” (Not actually on the coffee table, natch. I used big books like that as subject dividers in my LP collection.) And after thumbing through that for a few seconds I was back at work. That’s case was a lucky break. It’s not the Library of Congress in here or anything, so I imagine there will be a lot of times when I don't have the book I need and I’ll just have to make a note on research to be done later. Like writers used to do before the internet, I guess.

Also yesterday, I did not check my email while I was writing or check Facebook or watch any funny videos or tweak my Pandora station. I just wrote. Itching all the while to turn around and turn on my main computer so I could do those things, or get on blogger and tell this goofy story, but not actually doing it. Until now. But now is not my writing time, so I'm cool.

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