In the quiet spaces opened up by the sustained,

undistracted reading of a book, or by any other

act of contemplation, for that matter, we make

our own associations, draw our own inferences

and analogies, foster our own ideas.  . . .

If we lose those quiet spaces, or fill them up

with “content,” we will sacrifice something

important not only in our selves but

in our culture. —Nicholas Carr, The Atlantic, 2008


In Nicholas Carr’s 2008 essay, Is Google Making

Us Stupid? What the Internet is doing to our brains,

Carr confessed, “Over the past few years I’ve had

an uncomfortable sense that someone,

or something, has been tinkering with my brain,

remapping the neural circuitry, reprogramming

the memory.” In the article, Carr noted that he

had lost the ability to read for hours.

After reading just a few pages of text,

his mind would wander.


I’ve noticed the same problem when I read

and write. And, like Carr, I attribute it to the

amount of time I spend online, taking in

information. I’ve tried to keep strict boundaries

between my writing life and the Internet.

I don’t go online until I’ve finished my daily

writing. I won’t leave open my email or

Twitter and Facebook feeds while I work—

even if I am doing a relatively boring task.

I don’t use my smart phone to surf or

text in the car, when I exercise, or when I

am with family or friends.


That said, I spend hours online every day.

Whenever I need a piece of information for

an article, I do a Web search. I read a

good amount of research and creative

writing online. I frequently visit social

networking sites. In the evening, watching

television or reading a magazine, I’ll

frequently go back online to get more

information on something I’ve read.

Thanks to smart tags, many of my

magazines now interact with online sites.

By the end of the day, I experience what

I call cyber-induced monkey mind. Long

after I’ve turned off the computer, my

brain is flitting between ideas and my

long list of tasks. This impacts my writing.


I don’t know about you, but my writing

depends on quiet spaces to think up

and spin out ideas. For that reason,

I am taking a reading day twice a month.

On those days, I pretend I am on vacation.

I do not check email, update my Facebook

status, or check in on Twitter. Instead, I

sit in my favorite chair and read. In

between pages, I jot down quotes I

want to remember. In between

chapters, I daydream and nap a bit.

At the end of the day, I feel rested

and less anxious about what I need

to produce.


Writers, give yourself the gift of a

reading day. Reading offline will deepen

your writing. Time away from your work

and the computer will refresh you. New

ideas will take root inside of you. When

you return to your writing desk, your attention

span might even be a smidgen longer!

Now that’s something to celebrate!


Write Now!

Coach Rochelle Melander teaches professionals

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