Saturday, June 16, 2012

Two Programs that Keep the Internet from Eating Your Soul + Giveaway Winners!

"Work on a computer that is disconnected from the Internet." -- Zadie Smith's rules for writers

I worship Ms. Smith in all things (and she has a new novel coming this autumn -- hooray!), and I would gladly take her advice here. But I also need the Internet frequently for things that are still related to my job:  title and author research, fact-checking, So while I can't disconnect my computer completely, there are two programs that I've found incredibly effective in helping me get away from the Internet and stay focused while I'm working; and I thought I'd write a little about them here, just in case you haven't discovered them yet.

1) Freedom. Download this and you can lock yourself out of the Internet completely for a set number of minutes. If you need to get on the Internet before the set time expires, you'll have to restart your computer. As the site observes, its effect is as much psychological as it is practical; you know you cannot be distracted by Twitter, say, and therefore it's easier to concentrate on the offline work to be done, because Twitter (and all of the Internet) is simply not an option. (The same software designer also has a program called Antisocial that will lock you out of social networking sites, but still access the Internet for research. It is Mac-only, however.) My author Lisa Yee is a proud user of Freedom, and she did a great interview with its creator last year.

2) Leechblock. Rather than being a standalone program like Freedom, this is a plugin for Firefox, which allows you to establish set periods of time during which you cannot access certain favorite sites. It's fairly easy to override your own blocks, though, unless you use the advanced lockdown, at which point it will actually kick you OFF these sites at the set time and then keep you from accessing the override. For instance, I have it set that I can't use Twitter after 10 a.m. on weekdays, so if I'm typing a tweet at 9:59 and the clock ticks over to 10, BOOM -- Twitter is done for me till 12:15 (I let myself look at it again on my lunch break). The fact that it imposes the discipline on me makes it even more useful than Freedom, which requires my active thought and will to quit surfing.

Someday, we will all be Zen monks of writing and time and thought management and not need programs like these. (And writers, if there are any other programs your fellow procrastinators should know about, please leave them in the comments.) Until then, I am grateful to the software purveyors for making these programs available, and I wish all of us the best with our work.


The winners of the giveaway from my last post are Eliza T, GraceAnne, Clifton, Diane, Darshana, Pat Zietlow Miller, Jen, and Tina Radcliffe. (They were selected randomly by my fiance, after I ordered him to give me eight numbers between one and twenty-eight and he obeyed. We still don't know where we're going on vacation.) Winners:  Please e-mail me at chavela_que at yahoo dot com with your addresses and any title preferences you might have, and I'll try to get the galleys out this week.

And you know what? I never picked a winner for this giveaway back in February! James just picked the winner here too, and it's DustySE. Dusty, send my your address likewise, and I'll send you a real book. Thanks to all for participating!


  1. I just learned about Anti-Social (, which appears to be by the Freedom guy. It blocks social media sites, so it's an alternative for us non-Firefox users. I'm downloading it even as I type!

  2. Freedom is wonderful - I finally admitted my failings and downloaded it, and it's made a huge difference while dissertation-writing. It keeps me from chasing after what a friend calls the "shiny objects" - all the non-essential questions, issues, etc that crop up while I'm writing, and that I *used to* look up online. Now I jot down shiny objects on an index card and if, by the time my Freedom session ends, I'm still interested, I go look them up (note: usually, I'm not still interested. shiny objects are almost always total distractions of trivia, rather than important pieces of the dissertation puzzle). Leechblock sounds useful, though, because I do need to be kicked off the internet, especially in the mornings. Thanks for this!

  3. Love seeing Leechblock mentioned. It was created by one of my husband's seminary professors. It still makes me chuckle that a professor of theology also developed this tech tool. :)