Comic Creator James Sturm Has Quit the Internet!
James Sturm, creator of comics including The Golem’s Mighty Swing, Fantastic Four: Unstable Molecules, Satchel Paige: Striking Out Jim Crow, and this week's book, Market Day, announced Wednesday through the online magazine Slate that as of Friday, April 9th, he would give up the internet and not look back for four months. Sturm's hope is that this hiatus from the "cyber world" will give him hours of his life back in the real world to better serve his family and his creative output and just generally slow down the fleeting passage of time in his own life.
In his article, Sturm states:
"It all goes by so fast," is one of the those clichés you hear throughout your life, but now, when another parent says it as we discuss the joys and sorrows of child rearing, it sounds like the most poignant thing I've ever heard. The question I've been wrestling with lately is whether it's all going by so fast because that's just the reality of middle age or because of the way I've been living my life. Specifically, I've started to wonder whether that feeling might be connected to all the time I spend online. Too often I sit down to dash off a quick e-mail and before I know it an hour or more has gone by."
"Over the last several years, the Internet has evolved from being a distraction to something that feels more sinister. Even when I am away from the computer I am aware that I AM AWAY FROM MY COMPUTER and am scheming about how to GET BACK ON THE COMPUTER. I've tried various strategies to limit my time online: leaving my laptop at my studio when I go home, leaving it at home when I go to my studio, a Saturday moratorium on usage. But nothing has worked for long. More and more hours of my life evaporate in front of YouTube. Supposedly addiction isn't a moral failing, but it feels as if it is."
This idea to walk away from the Net was inspired by time he spent two years ago at the MacDowell Academy, a retreat for artists, writers, composers, and other creative types.
"Although the main lodge was wired, the studios were not, and for three weeks I worked on Market Day, a graphic novel, without any intrusions. (Lunch was dropped off by my door in a basket.) I realize that I can't replicate that ideal setting for sustained focus in my daily life, but I can certainly improve my current situation."
While James certainly admits there's plenty of useful functions the time online serves with his creative work, his work with his school, planning the family vacation, bill pay, etc., he clearly understands that all this time well spent online often and easily slips into time spent checking the email one more time, sports scores, videos, and Amazon.com rankings for his books and that's where the trouble really lies with internet usage. Strum also has some very legitimate concerns about the health of his vision in relationship to computer usage.
"Another reason for going offline is to give my eye a rest. Three retinal operations in the early '90s left me with one working eye. I wear a corrective contact lens in the good eye, and in the last year have had to bump up my prescription twice. Last year, I noticed an odd speck in my field of vision and was convinced that the retina in my good eye was also in trouble. I saw my eye doctor the next day. It turned out to be nothing serious—a little abrasion that healed quickly—but it scared the crap out of me. I want to go blind making comics, not blog-hopping."
So can Sturm do it? Will this get the Internet-Monkey off his back? How will the time off go? Well, if you're curious, he will be share a report of the experience which will be posted on Slate.
"I'll do my best to document the no-fi experience with words and pictures. This way, even if I am not any wiser in four months, I'll at least have a bunch of drawings to show for it. And for the next four months, I'll be describing my life without the Web in words and pictures on Slate with a new post every two weeks. The irony of blogging about not being online doesn't escape me."
Good luck, Mr. Sturm! I've pondered such an existence myself, but for all the work I do through email, and the information I can discover online I can't see it happening. I know my personal time at home was a much different experience recently when I didn't have Internet access for 24 days in February, but who knows. It's something to ponder...
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