I’m not sure what everyone else who’s ever written a book does in the last few weeks before submission, but I’ve been doing a lot of procrastinating – starting novels I know I should wait until after I submit to read, meeting friends and colleagues for endless cups of coffee, trawling the aisles of Ikea for the perfect book shelf to grace my new home office, concocting amazing, nutritious lunches for myself, and endlessly updating my Facebook status. Of course, the time-delaying tactics have been much helped by my recent attempts to set myself up in my new workplace (which shall remain nameless out of respect for its reputation and my job security!) Becoming a new staff member, it seems, is easy in theory but much harder in practice. It took two weeks for my staff card to materialize, even though the actual manufacture of said staff card involved looking briefly into a little camera and waiting three minutes for the card-making machine to spit out my plastic proof of identity. Mind-blowing really!
More mind-blowing still has been my attempt to connect my laptop to the network. After several hours of frustration this morning, I concluded that it would actually be easier for me to return to college for a a degree in computer science than actually to connect to the internet at my desk. I suppose I’ve never been very handy with electronic/technological stuff. In fact, as a Romanticist, I tend to revel in my lack of technological prowess. Although I rely on my laptop for much essential everyday work – wordprocessing, checking my email, logging into facebook, downloading music, and playing solitaire, for instance – I’ve always loved the feel of a pen in my hand (plain blue Bic for me, please) and a thick notepad in front of me. For proofreading, especially, there’s really nothing quite like it. More broadly, however, the experience of longhand writing seems, at least for me, to stir the creative juices and get me thinking in a way that the erasure-editing of MS Word doesn’t. Maybe it’s the ability to see what I’m writing in tangible actuality and to hold it in my hands. Whatever it is, it usually works when I’m having a bit of a brain freeze or writer’s block.
The same is true for my reading habits. Maybe I’m a bit of an oddity in twenty-first century society, but give me an actual paper book or newspaper over the online version any day. Of course, I’ll read the online versions in a pinch (usually for procrastination purposes), but I’m much happier with a paperback, a cup of tea, and a comfy sofa. Frankly, that’s what’s missing with the always-plugged-in online versions…. Reading isn’t an experience anymore, but simply a task or a quick stopping-off point before moving on to something more important or useful. It’s lost its sense of ritual, I suppose – the ritual I associate with settling down on a Sunday morning to drink my coffee and leisurely work my way through the day’s paper(s). Maybe a new kind of ritual is replacing the old one, one more in tune with our hectic lifestyles and the ever-present technology with which we’re surrounded – the ritual of checking Pue’s, for instance, before starting the day’s work! Given my participation in Pue’s and love of it, I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t appreciate what technology provides for us on an everyday basis. And, for the most part – when I’m not tearing my hair out in frustration over ‘access denied’ dialog boxes and necessary but unknown proxy server addresses – I appreciate the technological age in which we live. Still, call me a traditionalist, but nothing’s ever going to replace the feel of paper in my hands, the thrill of reading the handwriting of my early-nineteenth century subject, or the delight of presenting my own book to friends and family. Before I can do the latter, of course, I’ll have to finish the silly thing…. But first, I think I’ll update my Facebook status.