Tuesday, February 8, 2011

...is just another word for nothing left to lose...

by Special Guest Brad Parks

“Fight and you may die. Run and you'll live -- at least a while. And dying in your beds many years from now, would you be willing to trade all the days from this day to that for one chance, just one chance to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they'll never take our freedom!” – William Wallace as played by Mel Gibson (who is a little racist; but, hey, aren’t we all sometimes?)

This is a blog post about Freedom. Not the kind of freedom William Wallace fought for, or the kind of freedom guaranteed in the Constitution, but, rather, Freedom.

With a capital F.

Freedom from E-mail. Freedom from Facebook. Freedom from Twitter. Freedom from that Huffington Post story that leads to a blog that leads to a YouTube video that leads to another YouTube video that leads to this utterly hysterical spoof called DiscountKoalaMeat.com and OMFG that is so funny I’ve got to go off and Tweet it and, I’m sorry, I just got an e-mail that might be from my editor but, nuts, it’s just another DorothyL digest and, I’m sorry, what was I writing about again?

Oh, right, Internet Freedom.

In case you haven’t heard about it, it’s a software program that blocks your Internet access for a set amount of time. You can download here and if you are remotely like me – an easily distractible natural procrastinator who craves the small, instant gratification that receiving an e-mail can provide – I will suggest it is perhaps the greatest writing tool since the ballpoint pen.

And, yeah, I know that when Josh Corin agreed to have me on the blog today, his biggest fear was probably that I’d end up making this post one long shill for my latest book, EYES OF THE INNOCENT. Instead, I’m turning it into a shill for this brilliant and utterly necessary bit of software – and, trust me, you’ll thank me later.

It’s marvelously simple. It costs $10 (no, I don’t get a cut). It downloads and installs itself in a matter of minutes. When you fire it up and it asks you one easy question: “How many minutes of freedom would you like?”

You type in the number and, voila, you are saved from yourself. For the next XXX minutes (I suggest easing in with a nice 120), you cannot succumb to the sordid temptation of the quick e-mail peak that leads checking the weather for the weekend that leads to a fascinating story about a tropical storm brewing in the Azores that leads to the one simple weight loss secret all celebrities know and, wait, there’s another e-mail and it might be from my agent but, dadgummit, it’s just another MWA listserv so maybe I should just check my Amazon ranking and, I’m sorry, where was I?

Oh, yeah, Freedom. And how it helps your writing. Because instead of thinking about the 14 things the Internet throws at you every bleeping minute, you’re only concentrating on one thing. The thing you ought to have been focusing on all along. Your story.

The science behind this is utterly clear. People who allow themselves to be interrupted during the creative process have far poorer outcomes than those who work continuously. The mechanism behind this is suspected to be a structure deep inside the frontal cortex, a part of the brain that has been highly implicated in the complex act that is fiction writing. In brain scans, researchers have found this structure glows brighter the longer it is allowed to concentrate on one task but immediately dims when it is interrupted by another task – like, for example, that quick run over to Facebook.

In one famous longitudinal study, Stanford psychologist N. Iroch Soj recruited 40 students who identified themselves as aspiring authors and split them into two groups. One was given free access to the Internet while they wrote. The other was provided laptops without wireless cards and signed a pledged to only write on those machines.

After five years, an astonishing 12 members of the non-Internet group had signed multi-book deals with Big Six publishing companies; another four, while not yet published, were agented and out on submission. In the Internet group? There were no deals and only three shoddily written query letters between them. But damn did they answer their e-mails fast!

Okay, okay. I made that up. All of it. (Those of you who are really on the ball may have noticed that N. Iroch Soj is actually Josh Corin spelled backwards). But I’m sure a study like that exists. And I’m also sure, if I had Internet access right now, I could have easily wasted three hours poring over Psychology Today until I found it.

Instead, I’m writing this while using Internet Freedom, so I spent about two minutes inventing that yarn; three minutes figuring out how, exactly, you spell “Josh Corin” backwards; maybe ten minutes actually writing it; and then two more minutes wondering if it was clever enough to fool Becky Cantrell (probably not, she’s pretty smart). But that’s the beauty of writing fiction. It doesn’t have to be real, just real enough to fool Josh. (And it probably did, because he’s not as smart as Becky).

Now, maybe you’re the kind of person with the massive amount of willpower necessary to resist that little “You’ve Got Mail” button that flashes on your screen while you’re writing. I’m not. I’m a person with a very tiny amount of willpower.

But that’s the best part of Freedom. It only takes one small act of discipline – opening a computer program and typing in a number – to take care of you until you’ve had enough time to reach your daily writing goal.

Try it. And send me an e-mail at brad at bradparksbooks.com when you’re done to let me if it works for you. Just be warned: It’ll be at least another 143 minutes before I have a chance to answer.

Brad Parks' debut, FACES OF THE GONE, became the first book ever to win both the Nero Award and Shamus Award, two of crime fiction’s most prestigious prizes. His second book, EYES OF THE INNOCENT, just released from St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur Books. Library Journal gave it a starred review, calling it “as good if not better (than) his acclaimed debut."

For more Brad, sign up for his newsletter (http://www.bradparksbooks.com/fan-club.php), follow him on Twitter (http://www.twitter.com/brad_parks) or became a fan of Brad Parks Books on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/#/pages/Brad-Parks-Books/137190195628?ref=ts).


Rebecca Cantrell said...

I like the idea of that Freedom thingy. But I bet you made it up to fool poor Josh. See all credibility you lost with that made up study? And something I could have googled too. Tsk. Tisk.

Welcome to the blog, Brad!

And congratulations on the release of the EYES OF THE INNOCENT, which I believe comes out TODAY.

*raising her glass in a cyber-toast*

Now I'm going to go google Freedom...

TracyK said...

I soo need this! Sad that simple willpower is not enough. Sad that I didn't think of this first so I could retire to a Caribbean island or at least pay for my kids' braces.

And congrats on EYES OF THE INNOCENT, which is doing great on amazon. I know because I just checked it for you (but now I really should get that program).

Meredith Cole said...

Welcome to Criminal Minds, Brad! I know you didn't make up that software, because I think I saw a plug for it on Twitter or something. Yeah, I probably need it, too. But first I have to go read an email that just came into my inbox...

Congrats on book #2!

Joshua Corin said...

Becky really is smarter than I are.

Anonymous said...

Hey Guys,

Actually, Becky, EYES OF THE INNOCENT came out a week ago today. But I'm still accepting toasts all week. Thanks to you and Meredith!

Oh, and Tracy, since I've already been out a week, you're really seeing the tail end of the Amazon.com phenomena with EYES. (I came close to No. 1... well, close if you consider there are, what, 4 million books for sale on Amazon? I was definitely in the top .00001 percent there for a while.

As for you, Josh, well... I don't think many of us are as smart as Becky, so don't feel bad. Badly. Badder. What is that again?

Jeannie Holmes said...

Welcome to Criminal Minds, Brad, and congrats on EYES OF THE INNOCENT.

The Freedom software is interesting, in theory, and I do agree that will power is a major key in success. However, being the skeptical and yet practical minded person that I am, I offer a simplier solution. I've actually done this myself and it worked wonders:

1. Set a timer for the amount of time you want to write.

2. Unplug your computer from the internet. If using wireless (like I do), disable the "radio" on the modem.

3. Turn off house phone and cell phone.

4. Write.

Didn't cost me a penny but it does require a little bit of smarts...maybe even more than Becky possesses. :)

Kelli Stanley said...

Congratulations on the new release, Brad, and welcome to Criminal Minds!

Freedom sounds attractive, but like Jeannie, I prefer to disconnect the power rather than pay someone to disconnect it for me ... besides, don't you have to paint yourself blue or something?

Rebecca Cantrell said...

Josh: As if! Brad is just sowing dissent.

Brad: You get to accept toasts all month, at least. And congrats on the top .000001%. You should put that on a t-shirt.

Jeannie: I like it!

Kelli: More congratulations on your book, THE CURSEMAKER, which came out last week to splendid reviews. (see, that's part of the monthlong toast tradition, Brad!)

Do we really have to paint ourselves blue? At least it's my favorite color...

Kelli Stanley said...

Blue is my favorite color too, Becks, but woad is damn hard to rinse off!

Thanks for the shout-out, btw!

Anonymous said...

See, Jeannie, I can already tell you've got more willpower than I do. Because I've tried exactly what you've suggested and disabled the radio. Then, 45 minutes in, I convince myself that I really need to look at the close-in view of a certain street I'm writing about, so I enable the wifi again. And the next thing you know, poof, I'm commenting on something on Criminal Minds. Freedom saves me from myself.

Anonymous said...

Kelli -- So happy to share release month with you, and congratulations on CURSEMAKER!

I think you have to paint yourself blue AND wear a kilt. And I'm fine with that. I've got the gams to pull it off.

Jeannie Holmes said...

I agree with Kelli. Woad is a PITA to remove, not to mention you'll never get out of your clothes. There are better options if you want to look like a giant Smurf. :)

Brad - Maybe you really do have the willpower. Maybe Brad Meltzer is using this Freedom program to secretly syphon it away as part of a vast government conspiracy to turn everyone into woad-covered smurfy zombies and steal our Cheetos.

Rebecca Cantrell said...

Jeannie, have I mentioned lately how glad I am that you're a pacifist?

Glad, glad, glad!

Jeannie Holmes said...

Becky - You may have mentioned it once or twice. :)