Today’s post comes to you via my new netbook, my new key to freedom! Or is it…
When my first iBook laptop went kaput after 5 years in 2007, I have since been desk-bound with my newer iMac. Yes, I am on Team Mac, but unfortunately don’t wish to shell out the quid on another iBook. But this is beside the point…
My new lil’ Sony netbook is liberating me from my hybrid home office/guest bedroom. So far, I’ve made it all the way to the living room. Baby steps, baby steps. What I’m getting psyched about is the ability to work on my writing project remotely in London cafes, pubs, parks, and even cemeteries, such that I can still get out and about and explore this city in the newly-turned gorgeous weather without the eternal guilt over neglecting my writing.
The guilt…oh, the guilt. I am wondering if other writers out there will gasp at what I’m about to confess or own up that they sometimes feel the same way. When I speak of liberation, this applies to writing as well, as, along with reading, it is the ultimate way to escape into the free life of the mind at any given moment, taking me into other locations and minds and hearts.
Yet as of recently, I’ve been more conscious of the limiting effects of indulging this pasttime. Rather than free, I can feel trapped…for one thing, there is the guilt I mentioned above when I heaven forbid do something else with my free time after work or on the weekend and have not planted my bum in my desk chair to crank out at least a couple more pages or revise what has already been written.
Adding to this, I once thought it freeing that I could work through my plots and characters even away from my computer and pen and paper, as ideas and revelations will come to me in the shower or during my commute.
“The best time to plan a book is while you’re doing the dishes.” –Agatha Christie
“What no wife of a writer can ever understand is that a writer is working when he’s staring out of the window.” –Burton Rascoe
This has had the effect, however, of overwhelming my thoughts, exhausting me noggin when it’s set in hyperdrive and I find myself trying to figure out how to get a character into or out of a situation while I simultaneously need to get my work done…my brain needs to be in on that, too, after all, and my high levels of distractibility ever since I took on writing as a primary and ongoing endeavor are leading me into some embarassing situations. The other week, I was working through a plot line in my head as I was exiting the Notting Hill Gate Tube station, and, realizing I should probably top-up my Oyster card—my prepaid public transport pass—I walked up to a kiosk touch-screen and cancelled a stranger’s transaction, not realizing he’d been standing there and about to finish adding £50 to his card! I’d never felt so foolish and kept apologizing profusely from the adjacent kiosk as I saw him restarting his transaction all over again in my peripheral vision.
“Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” –E.L. Doctorow
Even when I try to escape into reading to calm my overworking mind, I find I’m not enjoying it in the way that I used to—reading as a writer, there is the tendency to analyze the character and plot development, the descriptive detail and overall style and construction, not in analysis of the text itself (which is perfectly okay and necessary to truly engaging with it), but in comparison with my own style and approach, which is maddening. Yes, reading can inform our writing, but what if I just want to read for reading’s sake? Can I recover this ability at some point, or in taking on writing have I forever altered the relationship I have with other people’s stories? And most importantly, should I feel bad to be feeling this way, or is it natural? Writers of the world, please advise 🙂
In the meantime, I’m hoping that I haven’t just substituted a ball and chain with a house-arrest bracelet that permits me more mobility, but still holds me prisoner to obligation and guilt. I think instead my wee netbook and I will have many happy travels together as we get back out there to resume control of my everyday and observe life for it’s own sake—and, sure, if it provides good material for a story, that’s not too shabby either even if it does serve to feed my aforementioned neuroses.
“How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.” –Henry David Thoreau, Journal, 19 August 1851