5 Acceptable Online Time Sucks for Writers

Time sucks. They’re everywhere online. Nobody is immune to them. Anybody with access to the internet will at some point lose productivity by falling into a whirlpool of memes, videos, celebrity gossip, Candy Crush games, or all of the above. It’s the nature of our species these days.

It starts out with you double-checking where in Africa a country is located. You want to be accurate. An hour later your browser is a garden of tabs relating to the mummification process of ancient Egypt, and how extra terrestrials may be involved. Meanwhile, your project has fallen by the wayside.

Time suck.

So if you’re a writer, and diving headlong down the slippery chute of internet distraction is at times inevitable, may I present five types of time sucks that, though still a distraction from your W.I.P. could at least prove useful in an indirect fashion over time.

1) Customer Book Reviews

I tend to read these by the dozen when I have finished reading a book, especially a book I didn’t like. Some of the most entertaining things I read on the internet are the thoughts of people who hated the same book I hated. They’ve been there. They know why it sucked. I am not alone.

Potential Usefulness: Honing your sense of what the average reader is looking for. Helping you better define what it was about the story you’ve read that just wasn’t working for you, hence helping you avoid similar things in your writing.

2) Blogs and Articles on Writing

Not always a time suck, but it certainly can be. Reading about writing, and actually doing it are worlds apart. Yet it almost feels important, doesn’t it?

Potential Usefulness: Obvious. Getting pulled into a writing discussion on a message board, or devouring an author’s blog at least keeps your mind on the subject of writing, even while you are not putting it into practice.

3) “Legitimate” News Items

Yes, I went there. I don’t consider Kardashian adventures and other such topics legitimate news. Sue me. What I do consider legitimate news is still wide-ranging though. You can guess what I mean: government, economics, diplomacy, science, arts, even local town events so long as they effect the well being of people, or the advancement of humans in some way.

News articles almost always have links to other news articles, that link to others, and so on, thus the time suck nature of news-reading.

Potential Usefulness: Other than remaining an informed, knowledgeable citizen? News is people, and people are stories. What is much of the news, after all, but people accomplishing or failing to accomplish things? Seeds of future works can be planted by way of the news.

4) History Articles

These can be some of the most powerful time sucks online. Much like news items, articles about history from legitimate academic sources often link to other such articles and so on. Even if they don’t, they have a tendency to send you off in a million directions. You read an article about King Whoever II who is believed to have been murdered by his brother. You look up his brother. Then their father. Then other sad stories of kings who were killed by brothers, and you end up on a page talking about the Christmas song “Good King Wenceslas.” You whistle that tune in the middle of July, as you look up the origins of all your favorite Christmas songs.

Potential Usefulness: Like news, history is very much about people. Again, people are stories. The word even has “story” in it! Knowing history means knowing good stories, many of which are not well known, depending on how deep you dig- a virtually inexhaustible material and inspiration for future use in your work.

5.) Movie Trailers

I have talked about these before. One of my most frequent time sucks. I go on Yahoo, Apple, Hulu, anywhere I can find movie trailers, and I have been known to spend an hour or more doing so. I enjoy trailers for movies I have no intention of seeing. I consider them if not an art than at least a spectacle unto themselves. One could argue that because I do not choose to see the majority of movies for which I have viewed a trailer, that the trailers have technically failed. Yet they are fun to me, as that previous post explains.

Potential Usefulness: Again, as I say in that previous post, they combine emotions and the barebones of story telling in a way that can inspire one’s own story telling. Really, read that post, I explain it all there.

So anything can become a time suck, depending on your personal interests and your level of discipline. Even when you know you should be writing, there you are, not doing it. Hopefully you can “waste” your time on some of these five when you should be working, so as to at least, albeit in a round-about way manage to stick with story telling.

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