The future of… well, everything…

So, I completely rooted my back.* I would like to be able to say that I did it in a glamorous extreme-sport way: perhaps heli-skiing or white-water rafting. But, no, I did it through hours upon hours of doing what I’m doing right now: sitting at a computer writing. Okay, so I’m a writer, both here and at the uni. But I don’t think it was writing novels and research papers that did this to me. I think what did this to me was the expectation that I must keep up with all this newfangled technology.

For the last 9 days, I haven’t been on the computer except once a day to check for important emails. And I’ve got to say, it’s been bliss. The endless stream of Facebook notifications dried up. I simply ignored the vast amounts of email that come through the various email lists and RSS feeds I am on. I picked up the phone and spoke to my bestie rather than Skyping her (she’s well, thanks for asking). If I wanted a cup of tea, I went downstairs and made it myself rather than instant messaging my husband (okay, that’s a lie; I just shouted for him to make me tea: it was classy). Oh me, oh my, it was bliss! There have been days in the past where I’ve been sitting at my desk at uni, trying to write a paper, and all I can hear is a symphony of beeps and buzzes as everything notifies me it’s arriving: Thunderbird, Skype, Google Talk, texts or emails on my Blackberry. Insanity. My attention is so divided. I start a thought and don’t finish it. So this week has been quiet, and I’ve felt a strange calm creep over me. If I see an email on a list come through, I don’t feel the urge immediately to wade in and offer my opinion on everything.

I recognise the irony of saying all this on a blog, and this is the strange impasse I have reached. There is so much that is good about the way that we connect with each other now. I love that I have found old friends on Facebook. From a purely practical perspective, the interwebz allows me to promote myself and build a market as a writer. I love doing writers’ races and being in constant dialogue with my writing friends: my bestie, my manuscript group, my stablemates at the literary agency, and so on: writers can feel isolated at times. But writing used to be different for me. It was quieter. It was early in the morning, with nobody around and a hot cup of tea. It was a special place I went alone. And then I just handed it over to my agent and got on with the next one. I am going to say, definitively, that the day my writing computer got hooked up to the interwebz, was the day my productivity dropped. I write in a distracted way now. I can’t seem to focus anymore. I’m too busy being a writer to write properly.

The wonderful thing about any kind of illness or injury is that it gives you an opportunity to take stock, and I realise that I really have to think about how I write. I don’t have a great deal of willpower (though I stopped biting my nails this year for the first time in my life–yayz!); so saying I will try to use Web 2.0 technology “moderately” may not work for me. Also, I don’t want to be one of those writers who only blogs or appears on Facebook when I have something to sell my “friends”. But at the same time, I’ve always found it borderline uncomfortable posting my opinions in public as though I think they’re all that. Besides, I should be using that energy on my novel, which, it must be said, is getting written very slowly. My agent told me recently that she’s seen a noticeable drop in the quality of manuscripts submitted to her since the advent and mass uptake of Web 2.0 technology. I can imagine why: our writing is spread too thin, just as we are.

Over the coming weeks, in the limited bursts I can actually sit at the computer, I’m going to try and find that still pool that I used to write in. I miss it. I’m not ignoring you, I’m just going to stop ignoring me.


*Note: please don’t send me suggestions of ways to fix my back. I’m seeing a great health professional and I’m very happy with the progress.

7 thoughts on “The future of… well, everything…

  1. Great post, Kim. You are right, sometimes it takes a major set back to make up stop and take a good look around. It’s nice to take stock and just be present in the moment without trying to participate in multiple things at once. I hope you heal well and fast. Enjoy your own undivided attention.

  2. You make a great point. However I’m most impressed with the fact that you managed to stop biting your nails. I did once for about three weeks (then kept scratching myself with my newfangled talons). Hope to do it again one day.

  3. I think it’s really interesting that your agent is seeing a drop in quality in the work of many writers — a lesson to us (we? I can never remember) writers that we need to disconnect for the quality of our work.

  4. Oops …. sent suggestion anyway. *hides*
    However, I agree that the technology is a lot to keep up with – I’m posting for two blogs as well as trying to keep a FB and Twitter presence – it is quite a lot! But I think I will use your example to stop every so often and plant my toes squarein some grass…. 😉

  5. Couldn’t agree more. I’m most productive at the beach where there is no internet, no mail, no phone. My mobile is six years old and can’t access the internet and I just ‘fessed up to my husband that I don’t want an iPhone because I don’t want to be connected all the time, wherever I am. I wrote the bulk of my last novel at the beach, and it looks like the same will be true of the current ms. In fact, I’m heading there tonight for some distraction-free writing time. Thanks for posting.

  6. Pingback: Taking time « Vampires in the Sunburnt Country

  7. Well said, Kim! I hate being sick, but it does force those us who spread ourselves too thin (for whatever reason) to take stock, and that can only ever be a good thing. I’ve taken to writing at a cafe down the road when I get distracted (mainly by the internet, with all it’s pretty colours and ‘news’). I’m finding it works for me – for now anyway… Good to hear your back is getting better 🙂

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