I love my computer. I adore going online. When I need to look something up, my first thought is to Google it. This from a person who was computer-phobic as a teenager, certain that computers would wipe out humanity as we know it. HAL gave me nightmares. But here I am, having fallen completely in love with my MacBook Pro and unable to imagine how I would do my work without it. My Mac keeps me connected to a whole world beyond Minnesota as I coordinate with people in England, Canada, Australia, the United States, and sometimes elsewhere for Every Day Poets. It’s my portal for submissions, for professional links, for instant connections to family and friends.
But I’ve found that I can’t do all my work on the computer. It’s still important to me to have a paper notebook and a pen that feels good in my hand when I create the first draft of a poem or a piece of creative nonfiction. I love Natalie Goldberg‘s advice to freewrite with the fastest-writing pen one can find to sort out what writing ideas. The great thing about notebooks is that they can go anywhere regardless of access to the Internet or even electricity. They’re quiet, easy on the eyes, can have interesting textures. They don’t crash. They don’t get viruses. You can burn them when you’re finished with them and it’s unlikely to create toxic fumes. Pens, likewise, don’t require much other than an occasional refill. Notebooks and pens connect me to my own work in a different way, a more intimate way that no one else has access to unless they steal my notebook. Extra bonuses: less eyestrain, no time waiting for the computer to boot up, no worries about leaving the notebook on the front seat of my car (closed, of course).
And so I’ve begun having computer-free Sundays. I’ve forced myself to designate one day a week when I forbid myself to turn on the computer. Efficiency can wait. As magical as computers are, as efficient as they make us, they do not take the place of the inspiration of being in the physical world, notebook in hand, observing what’s right in front of our eyes.
Next time you feel stuck in your writing, turn off the computer. Go for a walk. Breathe.
TODAY’S KINDNESS LINK:
My Daily Good email from CharityFocus.org this morning contained a link to a video featuring James Martin, a Jesuit priest who ignored his college advisor’s suggestion that he not take a poetry class because it wouldn’t help him later in business. Hear him talk about why his decision to take the poetry class anyway was a good thing. Here’s the link: http://www.dailygood.org/more.php?n=4094