Behind the scenes factoid: I write all of my Kleefeld on Webcomics columns in the cloud. Actually, I do almost all of my writing in the cloud these days. Wait… is “the cloud” common nomenclature yet? OK, for those who may not have heard about “the cloud” yet, it’s a fairly generic term referring to where my data is stored. Until recently, you were limited to your hard drive and maybe a few flash drives to port things around. The cloud refers to storing your data online. That way, it’s automatically backed up via the large storage servers and I can access it from pretty much anywhere with an internet connection. Which means that I can start writing this column from the comfort of my home, but then pick up and finish from a computer in the local library. Or at friend’s place. Or wherever. I can work on this almost whenever the mood strikes me, regardless of whether or not I thought to make a backup copy on a flash drive and carry that around with me.
Basically, I’m taking advantage of the internet’s near-ubiquitousness to free myself of the limitation of working from a specific location or under specific conditions. I also store all of my music in the cloud, as well as a record of all the comics in my personal collection. Personally, I love having the freedom and flexibility to follow my muse if I’m on vacation in Key West or going to a friend’s wedding in New York or celebrating the new year in Chicago.
The downside to that, however, is that… well, I have to be online to get my work done. Which isn’t a problem from the standpoint of access any more. I do very little travelling these days where I’m not connected somehow. No, the problem is that I am totally connected. To everything. To Facebook, to Twitter, to multiple email accounts. To the webcomics I read, to the blogs I follow, to the news of the world. It’s absurdly easy to get sucked down the rabbit hole.
There are things I can do to mitigate that, of course. Turn off my Twitter client, close Facebook, etc. But I can’t turn off the internet because I wouldn’t be able to work. I mean, I write about webcomics — even if I worked off my hard drive, I would still need to get online to gather webcomic examples!
Here’s the thing about that wonderland of information you can get online, though: it’s not a distraction. Not inherently, at any rate. Yeah, the old Bad Company video I watched in the middle of writing this was a distraction, and it might be hard to claim it was ever anything but a distraction for viewers, but I also paid some of my bills. That had to be done at some point, so it’s not innately a distraction, but I’ll admit I used it as one while I should’ve been writing.
It’s pretty easy to use the internet as a distraction. After all, there are tons of ways to kill time just a click away. But, really, it’s nothing new. Twitter and Facebook may be less than a decade old, but the idea of sharing a conversation unrelated to the work you’re supposed to be doing? That just used to be called the water cooler. Those webcomics you keep going back to? Just the modern equivalent of opening up the newspaper to the funnies.
Tell me you’re familiar with Ralph Phillips! He was the Chuck Jones character who kept getting trouble in school for daydreaming all the time.
Yeah, those daydreams? Distractions. Distractions without any water cooler, newspaper or internet. Just some plain ol’ brain power.
So where am I going with all this? Whether you’re a webcomiker who’s having trouble staying focused long enough to create your next comic, or a reader who can’t get your work done because you keep reading through the archives of Sheldon, it’s not really the internet that’s your problem. It’s just a lack of focus. Distractions can be fantastic if you’re able to use them to make creative connections that you might not have otherwise made, but they can be problematic if you need to actually get something done. The trick is getting yourself amped enough to stick to the task at hand, and not fall down the rabbit hole that the internet can become.