Some good things to do with an Internet addiction

The Joy of Quiet,” a story by Pico Iyer in the NY Times (29 Dec. 2011) resonates with something I proposed a week ago at a Christmas party.

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I’d been talking about plans to go away for a few weeks to finish a novel in draft. As usual, when such an idea is broached, people were quick to say things such as, “Hey, I know a great place on the coast down south” or “My uncle has a yacht crewed entirely by world-class lady beach volleyball players winding down between tournaments.” That kind of thing is all very well, but what I really need is somewhere barren of interesting people to chat to (including beach volleyball players), at least one room with a blank wall and no view of wonderful scenery and, most important of all, no Internet connection. In fact, I’d been thinking of some grubby little upcountry hotel here in Thailand.

This is not mere eccentricity. Lots of writers feel the same way, I believe. At least one successful writer (I believe it was Nicholas Carr, in The Shallows:What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains) goes so far as to say no one can write a book in the vicinity of an Internet connection. That may be no exaggeration.

At this point my Sara, as is her wont, interrupts. “All you need is self-discipline,” she says.

Uh-huh. That’s right. I don’t even have the self-discipline to activate Freedom, a program I installed on my computers that allows you to disable your communications programs for anywhere up to eight hours at a time (see “Addictions, spinal deficiencies and disciplinary infinite regresses”).

But let’s get back to my proposal, which will make both me and some obliging investor rich overnight. All I need  is enough cash to buy and renovate a smallish hotel, preferably here in Bangkok.

Here’s the deal. We subdivide the joint into windowless cells, each of them equipped with comfortable office chair, desk, adjustable lighting, cot, a basic toilet and washroom, coffee machine, and, by default, no Internet connection. Oh, yeah–and a solid door that unlocks only from the outside.

Just a prototype; we’d tart it up somewhat.

Whoa. We’ll have writers queuing up to pay our exorbitant rates for incarceration till they finish their book in draft or else cry uncle (for which we’ll charge them a hefty penalty). The punters can order food which, for modest charges, our staff will slip through a slot of the sort used in solitary confinement in all the best prisons. Writing supplies, computer repairs, etc. will be provided in the same way.

The real money, though—and this, I have to admit, is pure genius—will come from what we’ll charge for temporary access to the Internet. Clients who just can’t manage the cold-turkey route may submit a formal written request, agreeing to pay ridiculous sums by the minute for the privilege of being allowed online for a stipulated time. (Of course clients will also have to sign an initial agreement that protects us from charges of kidnapping and unlawful detention.)

So we provide a much-needed service for our age, amassing heaps of good karma at the same time we get obscenely rich.

This idea’s time has come. As I read Pico Iyer’s article, I kept feeling he was on the verge of stumbling upon it himself. I await good news from prospective investors.

Any good ideas for what to call this facility, which in my mind is already becoming an international chain? Mistress Muse’s No Mercy Mansion isn’t quite right, though it is pretty alliterative.

 

14 thoughts on “Some good things to do with an Internet addiction

  1. Great idea Collin! But being stingy, I’m thinking of a cheaper alternative. Commit a crime and you could enjoy living in a similar facility complete with the same ‘escape from the world’ benefits — for free!

    Not sure what to call the facility but you should patent the technique ‘Motivation through Incarceration’…

    (reading & commenting on this post while avoiding some urgent writing work, by the way!)

    • Me too. Damned Internet, eh? I’ve already booked a cell in my own establishment. Though, as you say, traditionalists can simply get thrown in dungeons and suchlike. But we can provide air-conditioning, absinthe (see Suzanne’s comment), computer repairs, giant cheeseburgers–virtually anything the punters are willing to pay for that fits through the slot.

  2. Suzanne Levi-Sanchez via Collin Piprell

    No, Collin Piprell, I like this name: Mistress Muse’s No Mercy Mansion. Sign me up. I’m on my way. I do think some injectables to get over the first few days might be in order though

    Collin Piprell
    Anou is suggesting “Pipedreams,” which in turn suggests opium on the menu. Would that do?
    21 minutes ago · Like

    Suzanne Levi-Sanchez
    LOL – that is my life. If I’m not studying the pipedreams of others, I am living my own, without assistance. I’m still in. Perhaps Absynthe is in order on the menu too?
    13 minutes ago · Like

    Collin Piprell
    Mais qui.
    9 minutes ago · Like · 1

  3. Anou Raut Desai
    Piprell’s Prose Production Pipedream!
    35 minutes ago · Like

    Collin Piprell
    Surely you aren’t suggesting we push pipes through the slot as well?
    21 minutes ago · Like

    Anou Raut Desai
    I wasn’t, but hey, I’m democratic.
    20 minutes ago · Like

  4. And LSD – hey, it worked for Steve Jobs. Though Jobs’ acid visions have done more to thwart the art of sitting still & writing more than anyone!

    • True. But look what his gadgetry has done for world peace. I’ve watched people sit endlessly pushing ornamental carp around an iPad pond with their forefingers (at least I think that’s what they were doing). You’d be hard put to find a more harmless activity, unless you feel that bringing creative emergence in terms of new novels, paintings, music, ideas, etc. to a standstill is harmful to the human project. You aren’t one of those weirdos, are you?

      Speaking of stalled creative emergence, I am now going to shoot my wi-fi router and try to get some work done before lunch.

  5. Suzanne Levi-Sanchez
    I think that you could make people earn internet time by word counts and then charge them exorbitant fees for the time after they have “earned” through pages – as forms of credits.
    12 minutes ago · Unlike · 1

    Collin Piprell
    A sound proposal, which already raises the capital value of this excellent idea. But the fact remains: We need enough money to buy and re-outfit a hotel. Would the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation consider this an educational initiative, if we couched our pitch in just the right terms?
    8 minutes ago · Like

    Suzanne Levi-Sanchez
    Mark Zuckerberg would see the irony as well as the necessity, I am fairly certain.
    6 minutes ago · Like

  6. So all this has turned into some kind of post-modern, insanely ironic commentary on what was supposed to be an innocently fun post. I insert the following, and then walk away from the Internet forever.

    Collin Piprell
    ‎@Anou: Whoa! I’ve just realized. You’ve out-alliterated me.
    39 minutes ago · Like · 1

    Anou Raut Desai
    d’uh! That being the whole Point of: Piprell’s Prose Production Pipedream.
    34 minutes ago · Unlike · 1

    Collin Piprell
    Even more, it afforded me the opportunity to use “out-alliterated,” which itself suggests a whole new writerly waste of time, where we all gather amid boxes of cheap wine and drink and alliteratively duel till we’re all mindless.
    23 minutes ago · Like · 1

    Collin Piprell
    I really am going back to work now.
    23 minutes ago · Like

    Suzanne Levi-Sanchez
    Tell us how long that lasts, please.
    16 minutes ago · Like · 1

    Collin Piprell
    As soon as my fingers leave this keyboard, I’m going to smash my router with a hammer and get rocking, eh?
    15 minutes ago · Like

    Suzanne Levi-Sanchez
    LOL
    15 minutes ago · Like

    Brian Wrixon
    Sounds like a wonderful idea. If you make the door slot slim enough you can cut down on the food costs and only serve pizza, pancakes and bread slices. More incentive to get the writing job done and back to the world of good food and cheap wine.
    14 minutes ago · Like · 1

    Collin Piprell
    Though that might limit computer repairs to the MacBook Air. … Right. I am now going dark, Internet-wise. I am going to do stuff. I am.
    11 minutes ago · Like · 1

    Suzanne Levi-Sanchez
    I’ve hit bottom. I need a group intervention. How could I possibly do that without the internet? I’m lost…!!
    9 minutes ago · Like

    Collin Piprell
    Have you looked out your window recently? There is nothing beyond the Internet. And now, as I finally pull the trigger on my router, I am going to destroy the world.
    8 minutes ago · Like

    Collin Piprell
    Still, I’ll try to get something done before lunch.
    8 minutes ago · Like

    Suzanne Levi-Sanchez
    Oh fuck it
    8 minutes ago · Like

    Suzanne Levi-Sanchez
    why bother…
    8 minutes ago · Like

    Anou Raut Desai Piprell:
    Are you frozen catatonic over router, hammer in hand?
    7 minutes ago · Unlike · 2

  7. For decades Japanese publishing companies have “canned” writers who were in danger of failing to meet their book or magazine article deadlines. The leading hotel to be canned in was the Hilltop in Tokyo, which happens to have the nicest nine-seat bar in town. Takashi Tachibana, the country’s top investigative reporter, so greatly in demand that he had trouble keeping to all his many deadlines, was canned there repeatedly. The nine-seat bar was of no use to Tachibana or other authors subjected to canning, as they were not permitted to leave their rooms until they supplied completed manuscripts. (The Japanese borrowed the word canned from Engllsh but modified it to kanzume.)

  8. The idea fast evolves into new territory, even as one and all become mired deeper and deeper in Internet addiction:

    Anou Raut Desai
    Piprell: Are you frozen catatonic over router, hammer in hand?
    2 hours ago · Unlike · 3

    Ann Kuzy
    This concept is pure genius. If this is what it will take to get your latest book finished, I am all for it. Just think, nothing at all between you and your word processor! I think you need an hour each day in the “yard” for exercise, though, along with conjugal visits. 🙂
    about an hour ago · Like · 2

    Anou Raut Desai
    Extrapolate the conjugal visits to your paying guests, and imagine how much you’ll clean up on those.
    about an hour ago · Like · 1

    Suzanne Levi-Sanchez
    Yes…it’s like the big victory for gamers…write a certain amount and earn points for internet and sex and potions..It would be interesting to see how many would choose internet over sex and drugs, now wouldn’t it?
    about an hour ago · Like · 1

    Collin Piprell
    The way things are shaping up, “Madame Muse’s” might be closer to the mark. … I have an undead router. There is no hope.
    about an hour ago · Like · 2

    Collin Piprell
    But I do like the way this enterprise is evolving.
    about an hour ago · Like · 2

    Suzanne Levi-Sanchez
    Bounded Besse’s Book Brothel
    about an hour ago · Unlike · 2

    Collin Piprell
    Each branch, in the various international capital cities around the world, could have its own name.
    about an hour ago · Like

    Collin Piprell
    A friend posted the following on my blogsite under a name I can’t use for fear of attracting assassins, when all I want are investors. What he says means I’ve only partly reinvented the bicycle, this time. Read on…
    about an hour ago · Like · 1

    Collin Piprell
    Anonymous friend: For decades Japanese publishing companies have “canned” writers who were in danger of failing to meet their book or magazine article deadlines. The leading hotel to be canned in was the Hilltop in Tokyo, which happens to have the nicest nine-seat bar in town. Takashi Tachibana, the country’s top investigative reporter, so greatly in demand that he had trouble keeping to all his many deadlines, was canned there repeatedly. The nine-seat bar was of no use to Tachibana or other authors subjected to canning, as they were not permitted to leave their rooms until they supplied completed manuscripts. (The Japanese borrowed the word canned from Engllsh but modified it to kanzume.)
    about an hour ago · Like · 2

    Suzanne Levi-Sanchez
    Ktabkhane kati khush va khohesh (Dari – Book house of desires and joy)
    about an hour ago · Unlike · 2

    Anou Raut Desai
    Now we’re talking! BBBB has my vote, although I am shattered at the Prospect of yielding royalties on PPPP.
    about an hour ago · Unlike · 2

    Collin Piprell
    Okay, now it’s stake-through-the-heart time for my router.
    about an hour ago · Like

    Suzanne Levi-Sanchez
    Yup. I’ve heard that before.
    about an hour ago · Like · 1

    Collin Piprell
    There’s still 10mins. till lunch; I should be able to finish that book.

  9. Hi Colin, I met you last night for the first time at the Bangkok Writers’ Guild. really enjoyed listening to your stories; very funny!

    I think this is a great idea, I for one know I need myself a writing zone, away from distractions, away from the internet, which is just oh so easy to click and check your facebook, or blog stats, or email…. Is this new age making it impossible for anyone to concentrate long enough to write novels? Perhaps they will become a thing of the past and people will be content with reading comments on youtube..

    • I’m afraid that’s a very real tendency. And the idea that no one can write a book if they’re within arm’s reach of an Internet connection is probably pretty accurate. Meanwhile technology is trying to ensure that no one, anywhere, 24/7, will ever be without Internet. The horror, eh?

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