In case you’re wondering, I’m writing this (at least the first draft) by hand, in a spiral notebook with a fountain pen. My laptop makes a great lap desk. I like the new paper against the back of my hand and the ink easing from my pen tip. Writing can be a calming, sensory delight.
These days I’m spending more of my day than ever before on the computer—on the internet, even, where privacy doesn’t exist and stimulation is the rule. I’ve ventured into new social media territory, I’m introducing myself to dozens of bloggers, I’m sending email newsletters, I’m reading online journals, all for the sake of connecting my new novel to potential readers. What happens online is thrilling. I hear from old friends. I meet writers who are fun and important. I discover publications I respect and want to participate in. The internet connects me to people and communities around the globe. I like it’s fast, vibrant, connective culture.
But some days I shut my computer and look up to find that the candle I lit at the beginning of work has burned for three hours without my noticing. I need a few minutes to adjust to reality—to my stiff body, to the clutter of books and bills, to my partner’s presence, to my hungry belly. Despite being in this room I’ve been entirely elsewhere, and this fact disturbs me. Reality shouldn’t come as a surprise.
So I’m making a concerted effort to stay real—thus the pen and paper. Here are my goals. I want to turn off the internet when I’m writing. I want to use the internet only when it’s needful. I want to keep the computer closed when my daughter is around. I want to turn it off by 8 p.m. so I can have a real evening with Emily, reading books or playing games. I want one day a week and one week a year when I leave the computer behind. I want to live here, in this flesh, on this slushy April morning with the robins pecking in the grass, in this beloved and messy home, in this city full of art and injustice and smelly buses, on this precarious, spinning earth. I want this with such conviction that I’m putting my commitment online. Perhaps we can leverage this virtual community in support of the real. –Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew