Writerly occupational hazards: Addictions, spinal deficiencies, and disciplinary infinite regresses

One writer, however much tongue in cheek, has actually expressed admiration for addicts:

I admire addicts. In a world where everybody is waiting for some blind, random disaster, or some sudden disease, the addict has the comfort of knowing what will most likely wait for him down the road. He’s taken some control over his ultimate fate, and his addiction keeps the cause of death from being a total surprise.     ~ Chuck Palahniuk

Overall, though, even Palahniuk would probably concede that this advantage—a modicum of autonomy regarding the nature of your eventual passing (a half-assed sort of “suicide,” in plain terms)—is generally outweighed by a range of ill effects.

Traditionally, writers have too often succumbed to the temptations of drink, drugs and complicated women (or men). Among modern writers, however, the Internet threatens to become the biggest killer of creativity and real social lives. (Have a look, e.g., at Edward Tenner’s review in the Wilson Quarterly of recent books arguing two sides of the issue: The Shallows:
 What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, by Nicholas Carr, and Cognitive Surplus:
Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age,
 by Clay Shirky.)

Online existence becomes ever-more seductive at the same time  concern grows at what harm it might be doing us. What isn’t at issue: In this brave new digital universe we inhabit, we tend to bathe our brains in a heady punch of dopamine (see, e.g., Psychology Today) and dangerous stress-induced chemicals (see New York Times story). Parked there in front of your computer browsing the Web and answering e-mail, you can launch yourself on a fine gonzo adventure complete with “natural” uppers and downers and hangovers, not to mention disaffected better halves and everything.

My own Internet addiction has maybe left enough of a concentration span to compose haikus:

You have mail


Delivery vehicles,

Every e-mail

A dopamine fix.

Novels, on the other hand, require more attention. Unfortunately, my various projects mean I can’t go cold turkey with the Internet, but I do need to find some way of disciplining myself. Something more effective than Sara’s Rx.

“Just be more disciplined,” she tells me.


I recently installed a program called Freedom, which is supposed to make discipline unnecessary. And it really works—you tell it how many hours you want to be independent of the Internet, and it forbids you access to all your communication programs for exactly that long. Plead and weep as much as you like; tell Freedom that Hollywood might be trying to e-mail you right now with an offer that expires in 20 minutes. There’s nothing you can do to change its mind. No recourse. Other than to go to your other computer, where you were careful not to install Freedom. Or simply refuse to activate Freedom. You may forget for months at a time, as I have, that you even have this program that set you back $15.

Now Sara tells me, “Just be more disciplined. Force yourself to activate Freedom every morning before you start your day.”

Right. But where do I find a program that activates Freedom automatically?

For much more on dopamine, see The Babble Out

4 thoughts on “Writerly occupational hazards: Addictions, spinal deficiencies, and disciplinary infinite regresses”

  1. Revolt! Smash our routers, burn our access codes. Listen to Sara. Do it while we still have enough attention span to brush our teeth, enough focus to move creatively beyond haikus. We have nothing to lose but our Facebook friends. (And, no doubt, offers from Hollywood and so on.)

    Speaking of yah-dongPlus, your BBQ therapy is still in the works. Thanks for that.

    How’s business?

  2. Pingback: I am whatever

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