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Monday, March 14, 2016
By Vicki Delany
I am in Vietnam right now, and no doubt having a marvellous time. So I searched for an old blog post that could use an update. I wrote this back in 2009. I have solved the problem, and I tell you how at the bottom.
CBC radio runs a programme called Spark which is all about the world of computing and the Internet and how it is changing our lives. Today I heard an interview which stuck with me. The guest was talking about creative spaces. Meaning spaces as in gaps, not physical places.
She said that in the past when people were engaged in a creative activity, which of course to me means writing, if they got to a point where they were stuck, they would take a break and look out the window perhaps, have a glass of water, let their mind move. This even works with something as minor as looking at the flowers on your desk or the picture you keep there of your loved ones. Then, once your mind was in the place of the creative gap, it would kickstart itself (I am now using completely my own interpretation of what she had to say), and you’d return to the creative task with a fresh idea.
In the age of the Internet, however, as soon as we have a momentary pause, we flip over to Outlook to send off an e-mail and read three others, or we check our Facebook account, or Tweet to #writing to say we how hard we are writing.
We are not entering a place of the creative pause.
I have absolutely noticed that with myself. Sometimes, I don’t even realize that I’m doing it. The mind will hesitate over the next thing to happen in the book, and wham! my fingers have sought out the Inbox. I have tried closing down mail and all browsers. Works for about fifteen minutes and I have to check quickly to see if anyone thinks I’m important enough to send me an e-mail.
I have talked to writers who have two computers, one for writing and one for all other stuff. That sounds like a great idea, but I don’t want two computers, I don’t want to get into having to shift documents around between one and the other. I have a laptop and a wireless router because I like to carry the laptop around the house and take it outside.
You know where this is going, don’t you? I’m going to have to switch the router off when I’m writing.
I started thinking about whether the constant access to the Internet has affected my own writing. I’ve written before about how invaluable it is for doing research, but I’m thinking now about the creative process itself.
I have always written fiction on a computer. Way back in the ‘80s I was one of the few people I knew to have a computer in the house – my company gave me one to take home. It was an IBM PS/2 as I recall. Of course we didn’t have the Internet, or not something totally all-encompassing then. When did it become such an integral part of our lives? By 2000 at least, I guess.
At a guess, my first three books were written without the constant presence of the Internet. Are they different, most importantly are they better, than what I have written since? I can’t say. When I worked full time I wrote in the evening, usually with a glass of wine at hand. Now I write in the morning with a pot of coffee at elbow and that has probably had a strong effect on the quality of my prose also!
Tomorrow, I’ll switch the router off.
Let’s hope my head doesn’t explode.
2016 Update: My head didn’t explode, but I gave in and bought a dedicated writing computer, a small netbook. I have talked about how I now write standing up, but what’s important for this conversation is that what I use when standing up is totally dedicated to one thing only: writing a novel. I don’t even use it to write these blog posts. I have never set up email and I have never even opened the browser. It seems to be working fine for me.
I do have it connected to the internet, because I use Dropbox for backup and sharing. And that's been a boon too.