Most of my writing friends decry the internet as a huge time-waster when they should be focusing on their writing. But Cory Doctorow of BoingBoing recently wrote a column about how one can write in the age of internet distraction. (By the way, if you have taken my advice and set up a feed reader, you should add BoingBoing, as it is the repository of all that is right and wrong online.)
Here's a little snippet from the column:
The single worst piece of writing advice I ever got was to stay away from the Internet because it would only waste my time and wouldn't help my writing. This advice was wrong creatively, professionally, artistically, and personally, but I know where the writer who doled it out was coming from. Every now and again, when I see a new website, game, or service, I sense the tug of an attention black hole: a time-sink that is just waiting to fill my every discretionary moment with distraction. As a co-parenting new father who writes at least a book per year, half-a-dozen columns a month, ten or more blog posts a day, plus assorted novellas and stories and speeches, I know just how short time can be and how dangerous distraction is.
But the Internet has been very good to me. It's informed my creativity and aesthetics, it's benefited me professionally and personally, and for every moment it steals, it gives back a hundred delights. I'd no sooner give it up than I'd give up fiction or any other pleasurable vice.
It's followed by some pretty decent advice on how to get your writing done by following some simple rules. My personal Achilles heel while writing on my laptop? The bullet point about eschewing research while in the middle of writing. I get distracted so easily by Wikipediaing a fact or looking up a Google Map of a city I'm not terribly familiar with. I think it's my intense, perverted love of hard facts that tempts me so easily from fiction; I am tricked into thinking that the injection of a real fact will somehow help my fiction writing and make it more realistic. In some cases, I wish I had Wikied something before submitting my piece (who knew that India was actually ABOVE the equator?) but the bulk of my experience has been that cleaving to facts has only hampered the creative process.
At any rate, it's not the fault of the internet for distracting you any more than it's MacDonald's fault that you're fat. Just don't eat too many online Big Macs at inappropriate times, and you should be fine.