About a month ago my computer was in the shop for a much needed tune-up. I went without it for four days. In this century going without a computer is a little like going without wheels or electricity or toothpaste, like something small but very essential was missing from my life.
Without a laptop I was kicked back to the 1990’s, a time when the primary computer in my life was a desktop about the size of ENIAC’s lap dog.
I had no choice but to go analog. Morning pages, blog post, and scenes from my novel were all done with a spiral notebook and a pen.
I was surprised by how liberated I felt. When I got my first laptop twelve years ago, I deluded myself into thinking that this modern convenience would enable me to write prolifically. I mistook the tool for the work itself, not realizing how little the tool had to do with motivation and work ethic. As I reflect on it now, I realize how foolish I was and just how much the laptop handicapped me.
But writing on a computer feels as if somebody is watching me, as if Statler and Waldorf are looking over my shoulder and heckling me as I type. But writing in a notebook feels personal, like I don’t have to worry about my flaws and I can be my usual awkward, clumsy self.
I didn’t necessarily need my laptop with my special writing software to be productive (although they’re nice to have around and I’m awfully glad to have them back). But I wasn’t so attached to these things that I couldn’t go a few days without them.
“For nearly six years, I used a metal folding chair as my official writing chair…I had a $10 particle board folding table, which in a nod to fashion I covered with a $4 tablecloth. I wrote most of my book about interest and around 20 journal articles sitting on my folding chair in front of that table. Unproductive writers often bemoan the lack of their own space to write. I’m not sympathetic to this creaky excuse. I’ve never had my own room as a home office or a private writing space.” from How to Write a Lot, by Paul J. Silvia (page 20).
The notion of discomfort tends to turn writers off. Having one’s “own space” is not a need; it’s a strategy. A writer needs the ease and comfort of working in uninterrupted peace, and having one’s “own space” is a common strategy to meet those needs. They believe (mistakenly sometimes) that one’s “own space” will ease them of the real discomfort – writing.
A couple things about one’s “own space.”
First of all, I had that space when I lived alone for several years, and I’m sorry to say that it didn’t make me more productive. I wrote some stuff but not prolifically.
Secondly, it didn’t make any of my fears go away. It just gave me a private place in which to be tormented by them.
I don’t have the space anymore, yet last week I wrote 600 words of my novel to the sound of contractors hammering away in a house that I now share with Toku and a roommate with another roommate on the way.
There’s nothing wrong with writing on a computer in your favorite corner that gets just the right amount of sunlight. But it does help to get outside your comfort zone. There are going to be days that are messy, crowded, loud, and uncomfortable, and you’re not going to have any goddamn privacy. So what are you going to do? Whine about it or toughen up?