Quit the Internet

J.S. Lender
3 min readSep 27, 2020

IF YOU ARE a wealthy oil tycoon or a Silicon Valley billionaire or a retiree, this article may not apply to you. But if you have a family and work for a living and are simultaneously trying to make it as a writer, this is perhaps the best advice I can give you: Quit the Internet. Today.

Yes, I acknowledge the irony of me telling you to quit the Internet while you are simultaneously reading this article (and hopefully my short stories) online. So perhaps I can modify my instruction: significantly reduce your time on the Internet. Maybe that sounds a little bit more reasonable?

If you are like me, after a long day of taking care of your family and hustling to make a living, there is not much time left for writing. When I used to frequent the Internet, I would waste time reading about all the news and politics and natural disasters and every other horrible story that the media could fling at me. I would also spend quite a bit of time reading websites made for aspiring authors, full of advice about how to get an agent and impress publishers. Then there were plenty of the “If I Can Do It, You Can Do It Too” articles written by well-meaning authors who would just make me feel like a complete failure.

From my past life on the Internet I learned one important lesson:

When you stare at a computer screen or at your iPhone, something is staring back at you from the other side. And that thing is not your friend. It knows quite a bit about you, too. It knows what you love and what you hate and it knows where you are going and where you have been. And it has only one motive: to keep you staring at that screen for as long as possible so it can sell you stuff. How does it keep you staring at the screen for so long? Usually by making you feel agitated and annoyed and anxious and fearful and angry.

Since I was not really getting much done as a writer/Internet user, I devised a new plan. Now, I hop on the Internet just one time for only 10 minutes a day, and that’s it. I use my daily 10 minutes on the Internet to do the following: swing by Medium and read a few stories by fellow writers and reply to comments made to my own stories (thanks for reading everyone!) and check my email, then I’m done. See you tomorrow, Internet!

Sure, I may be an extreme case, but this system works for me. As a writer, I wasn’t getting much encouragement by comparing my work to the accomplishments of others, nor was I becoming a better writer by scrolling around the web and on social media and letting precious time slip through my fingers. But I am well aware that in this Internet age, and that there are many writers having success publishing and heavily promoting their books online. If that works for them and they enjoy the process, I think that’s great. But for me, the Internet and computers in general and all of the pointing and clicking and scrolling that went along with it was such a god-awful, miserable process that I just couldn’t do it anymore. I learned that all I wanted to do was write and publish.

Now, almost all of my free time is spent either reading books (hardcover or paperback only!) and writing and editing my next book. I no longer carry a phone, either — I instead carry a paperback with me everywhere I go. My friends and family all know that the only way to reach me is to call me on my landline at home, 1984 style.

So, the next time you are ready to go online, ask yourself whether you would be having more fun reading a book or working on your next project. Also ask yourself: What has the Internet done for me lately?

Copyright J.S. Lender 2020

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J.S. Lender

fiction writer | ocean enthusiast | author of six books, including Max and the Great Oregon Fire. Blending words, waves and life…jlenderfiction.substack.com