Tuesday, January 12, 2010

What does it feel like?

In a previous post, I discussed the wonders and perils of the Internet when it comes to writing. On the positive side, you have unlimited information at your fingertips, just milliseconds away. On the negative, well, you have unlimited information at your fingertips. Sure, you can usually find what you're looking for, but you have to sift through countless dead ends, unreliable information, and all those pesky flashing advertisements. It takes tremendous fortitude to avoid getting distracted and taking your web surfing in a new direction. Because, believe me, when you're stuck, anything sounds better than writing.

A perfect example occurred yesterday. My book highlights the autoimmune disease lupus. Lupus patients can have seizures, so I wanted to Google "What does it feel like to have a seizure?" Google, being the helpful-cyborg-taking-over-the-world that it is, auto-populates a list with the most-searched items starting with your key phrase. So after I typed "what does it feel like," Google diligently pulled up a list of what it thought I might be looking for, based on the general population's most common searches. Its suggestions, in order of popularity:

What does it feel like...

to be fingered (seriously, #1)
to be high
to be eaten out
to be pregnant
to die
when your baby moves
when your water breaks
to get shot
to be drunk
to be in love

Pretty much covers all the bases. What was I looking for again?

I recently acquired four writer's reference books: Flip Dictionary, Visual Dictionary, Describer's Dictionary and Word Menu. Before the Internet, these books could literally change a writer's life. But even now, I'm finding that they save me time. It takes a little longer to uncover what you're looking for, but you don't have to sort through false information, browse insipid reader forums, or put on your horse blinders to avoid being distracted. You find what you need, and get back to your writing.

So this week I'm going to try an experiment. When I need to look up something while I'm writing, I'm going to try to shun Google and use these books exclusively. Next week, I'll explain more about how each reference book works -- and report the results of my experiment.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to continue reading about what it feels like to be shot, drunk and in love.

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