Sunday, November 30, 2008

Are we the spider or the fly?

Paper Cuts publishes stray questions asked of writer Elizabeth Graver, including this one:
How much time — if any — do you spend on the Web? Is it a distraction or a blessing?

Both. Last spring, I spent a week at an artists’ retreat where you’re asked to leave your cellphone behind and where you have no Internet access in your room. There’s one computer with Web access in a dank corner of the basement. At first it felt strange. Quickly, it felt wonderful. I emptied out, filled up. I didn’t go online all week. That said, if you’re writing a scene set in a steam laundry in Scotland in the 1920s, who could resist Googling “steam-laundry scotland” and being led to “Tender Fabrics Delicate Colours Send a Postcard Van Will Call”? Who can resist taking a break from writing to search, say, for a used gymnastic mat on Craigslist, or looking at house-swaps in Borneo and Greece? I do wonder how the Web is changing the texture and reach of contemporary fiction, as well as the writing process. It’s so easy, now, to find out a little about a lot or a lot about a little. It’s so easy to get interrupted or to interrupt yourself. But what a lovely lot of things to find. If it’s the Web, are we the spider or the fly?
Of course, both. But which more often? Lately I've been more spider than fly being online for information; getting in and out as soon as I've finished reading and not being too distracted. But I've been a fly. Often.

But I just love how she thought of the Web. As a web.