In The New York Times, Marie Myung-Ok Lee defends the Internet against writerly nay-sayers like Jonathan Franzen. Her argument is that the Internet has not been bad for her writing because it stimulates her thinking and allows her to discuss her work:
The World Wide Web is uncurated, which means that there are a million, zillion data points of light out there (Google was indeed named for the number “googol”— 10 to the 100th power). At any given moment, 99.9 percent of it is extraneous, irrelevant, but that’s exactly what I need: an endless pool in which to wallow and do the backstroke.
I work via slow accretions of often seemingly unrelated stuff. When I complete that unwieldy, puzzling first draft, I spread it out on the desk like a soothsayer viewing entrails, and try to find patterns. If asked, I might pretty up my process and call it bricolage or intellectual scrapbooking, but it really is merely the result of a magpie mind/brain, one that flits from one shiny thing to another. While I still work in my plodding way, the ever renewing bits of information in my Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr feeds provide endless fodder, like going shell collecting on the beach on a normal day versus the day after a hurricane when the ocean has burped up every interesting bit of stuff imaginable.
What keeps my writing process slow is not the Web, but the need to spend so much time circling a scene or a character, trying to get it in a form that reflects what I see in my mind. The payoff often comes when some trifle — say, an article on Inuit recipes for fermented salmon heads — that I’ve clicked on for no discernible reason, can years later become the perfect thing for a character musing on his long-ago romantic summer job in a cannery in Alaska. And while I still have epiphanic moments while staring out my window like a proper author, or am inspired by a long article in the New York Review of Books, I am just as often prompted by a random bit I’ve gleaned on a friend’s Twitter feed as it speeds by, or the latest ha-ha list from BuzzFeed.
I go back and forth on this. I often imagine that I would get so much more writing done and that it would be markedly better than what I write now if the Internet did not exist. At the same time, wasting time and self-destruction is (unfortunately) part of human nature, and I am sure I would find some other means of squandering my time and poisoning my prose. There are, of course, better and worse tools, and technology does change us in some ways, but not in others.