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Justin Hocking Recommends...

Writers Recommend

Posted 8.14.14

“As a research tool, the Internet is the best thing to happen to writers since the invention of the modern library. On the other hand, it can be a colossal time-suck and an addictive distraction for many writers—myself included. One of our most important challenges, then, is negotiating the use of technology in our daily writing practice. My creative nonfiction explores the intersections between personal history, cultural history, and ecology. The Internet makes research so easy—with a few keystrokes I can access endless information about, say, whaling, or early twentieth century mining accidents. The problem, as we all know, is how easily we get sucked down the rabbit hole of research. It's more than that, though—we now believe we can know everything via Google. But those habitual Google searches foster a superficial kind of knowing that kills one of the most essential aspects of writing and creating: allowing ourselves to rest in profound uncertainty. It's from this primordial darkness of unknowing that some of our best work comes alive on the page.

"What works for me lately is to head for the coffee shop first thing in the morning. I leave my cell phone at home. I write standing up at a tall countertop. As a firm rule, I stay 100 percent clear of e-mail and social media. I try to get comfortable with the uncertainty, puzzling together strands of research and personal narrative, filling out scenes, speculating, and hoping to find unexpected resonance between the personal and the historical. I save my online research and correspondence for later in the afternoon, when my creativity tends to wane. Once I've done my creative work for the day, some time on the Internet feels less like a compulsive habit, and more like a deliberate element of my overall practice.”
—Justin Hocking, author of The Great Floodgates of the Wonderworld: A Memoir (Graywolf Press, 2014)

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