I woke up an hour and a half ago ready to write a review of a book I just finished reading. I came downstairs, made a pot of coffee, and turned on my computer. It came on just a bit slower than usual, but finally, there was my writing screen. I clicked on it and began to type and the window came up that said ‘program is not responding’ and gave me the choice of waiting or cancelling. I chose to wait – I tried to be patient – 10 minutes later – I realized nothing was going to happen. So, I began to close other windows and shut down other processes on my computer. These also were not responding well. Everything that I had open was finally closed or forced shut and I managed to get back to the writing screen – twenty five minutes had gone by – I started to type – and the screen went gray while another message came up about slow loading – I’d had enough, so I restarted my computer – ten minutes later, it still had not completed the shut-down process so I force restarted it – ten minutes after that I was back on the computer but then it was updating apple products and steam and my antivirus definitions and still moving slugglishly – finally nearly an hour after I woke up energized and ready to write a book review – here I am – and the old problem with this laptop arises – spontaneously selecting and deleting entire blocks of text which on this particular program control z replaces – but not on every program – so sometimes I am not only interrupted but lose entire paragraphs and if I am not paying attention – I don’t notice until I revise and words that do not go together are jammed together. And so – one hour and forty minutes after I awoke – I am annoyed, bothered, and still have not written a word of what I intended but instead am writing this because in fifteen minutes it will be time to wake my daughter for school and my wife is up now and the uninterrupted hour I thought I had to write a decent review of an economic text has been swallowed by the beast of technology and shit design. Time saving my ass. Bill Gates and Al Gore can both go to hell this morning.
I’ve been writing online for a while now – mainly because Microsoft made their office products online products that you have to pay for, Google documents are free, and open office doesn’t work for me how it once did. So, I write online – at the very least, I’m connected when I’m writing and in general – I’ve decided I don’t like that. Also, my laptop a Gateway touchscreen thing I bought a few years ago for way too much money is the worst writing computer I’ve ever owned. The point of all of this – if there is one – is that technology has become less useful for me as it has (I’m told) progressed – I did more writing on my bricklike laptop back in 1997 and my 1995 boat anchor desktop actually functioned as a better word processor, than this amazing advanced machine I use now…in fact, a typewriter in a room with no connection to the outside world might have been the machine that allowed the most creative writing productivity – all of this stuff we call technology is a distraction. My next computer is going to be a word processor first and foremost with an ergonomic keyboard and an internet off switch. I’m not sure they make such a thing any longer so maybe it will be a Commodore 64 or a Remington typewriter.
The book festival yesterday was thought provoking. Lots of thoughts were provoked. Here are a few of them. As a young person (and today as well) I read a lot – I was inspired by great storytelling from the likes of Tolkien, Verne, Piers Anthony, Robert Heinlein, Steinbeck, Hemingway, Dickens, Twain, and London. I am inspired by well written history, thought provoking philosophy and spirituality, and approachable, practical how-to books. I like books that allow me to learn. I love books that allow me to visit far off destinations and exotic cultures and landscapes.
As a younger adult – I was also dazzled by the reckless and dangerous lifestyles of many writers. Hard drinking, hard drugging, hard loving, emotional roller coasters – like Hank Moody from Californication – I wanted to live like that.
I was never inspired by popular fiction like detective novels, thrillers or best sellers. I never wanted to be some boring baby boomer slaving away over a word processor and sitting in empty halls filled with tables behind which boring baby boomers sit eyeing potential readers with hunger.Yesterday, I found myself right there. Best selling author Philip Margolin was there too, sitting behind a table, trying to smile, signing books. I had no desire to be him. I had no desire to read his books.
I’ve not wanted to be Hank Moody or Jack Kerouac or Hemingway for quite a while now. The desire has passed. The idea of being an older Jack London type, building a ranch, hosting friends, fighting for good political ends…that appeals to me. I’d still love to write compelling stories…but they need to be stories with a purpose, stories that have more substance than a Moody-esque “I drank, I got fucked up, I got fucked, it was awful, I survived, I did it again, something awesome happened, I was miserable, I did it again”
My books previously have been a combination of how-to, travel to exotic places, introduction to exotic ideas, and fucked-upness with an over-exaggerated desire to attract attention by offending. I was using offense as a hook…which was (perhaps) novel in the 80s and 90s but now, in the age of the internet, is just boring.
I’ve changed a lot. I admit it. Enough that I can see foolishness where before I thought there was brilliance. Enough to see problems where before I thought there was quality. I was in love with my title “Douchebags, Fags, and Hags” I thought it was hilarious…yesterday, honestly, I was embarrassed by it and while I still love the novel – am pretty sure I would have sold a lot more if I had called it “The Sultanate of Baboob” or “Pig and the Sexy Nun” or even just “Pig”. There were other things I noticed and was shocked by, such as my putting of an ancient pre-Columbian artifact showing two dogs fucking on the back of my rather serious “Liminal Travel” – I remember thinking it was funny – an artifact from the MET referencing an off-color joke on the back of my book – but it has nothing to do with my book. Why did I put it there? Probably the same reason I put the horrible back cover on Smooth Living – enough to see that Slackville Road is a good idea with bad execution…and an ugly cover. I was blinded with love for my own creations…and I think the time I’ve taken off from writing has been a good thing.
The money and time I spent yesterday did not yield a financial return, but even so, I think it was well spent.
UPDATE: Just a few days in and I already find that I have extra time on my hands. It’s amazing how when I have a spare moment on the computer or in the shop or at home, my mind says “Check out Facebook” and then when I don’t I realize – “Hey, I don’t need to be on the computer and can step away to do something else” – it’s amazing how much of my precious time I was killing with FB.
Yesterday, I saw an interesting proposal online – it suggested that Facebook might be contributing to general unease and unhappiness in the world. I was already feeling a bit nauseated by Facebook in light of the recent behavioural experimentation the Facebook scientists have been conducting on users without their knowledge.
If you haven’t heard of it already, Facebook manipulated what stories showed up in the streams of users and then monitored what effect that had on the posting behaviour of those users. They then, rather naively, published the results which showed that by manipulating what stories users saw, they could manipulate what kind of stories users posted.
So, the chances are that you have already been manipulated by Facebook. And that’s only the study they are telling us about…It was in that context that I saw a Danish group suggesting that a lengthy break from Facebook might make people happier – in general. And they created a website and campaign to encourage people to give it a shot. 99daysoffreedom.com
Upon hearing about it, my first reaction was – “Whoa, that’s three months, I don’t think I could do that – I use Facebook all the time.” and then, those words hit me…What exactly do I use Facebook for? I use it to see what my friends are posting, to try to post things that my friends might ‘like’ and as a sort of ego extension. I use it to try to increase my readership and once in a while I use it to buy or sell something. The real question is Do I need it? The answer is very clearly “No”. I’ve lived most of my life without it and actually, I was happier with my use of my time during most of that time. In fact, Facebook has more or less become a defacto boredom time killer and I don’t need to kill time…it’s my most valuable assett. I have so much stuff I want to do and haven’t been doing because I don’t have the time – but suddenly – if I’m not spending my time scrolling through platitudes pasted on nice pictures – or looking at other people’s vacation photos – I’ve got some time.
I mean, you want proof? I’m writing this. I’m not writing it on Facebook, I’m writing it on my blog which I’ve been sorely neglecting lately. You might be reading it on Facebook though because my blog automatically posts on Facebook without me logging in at all. I’m not logged into Facebook, I’m not checking to see if people ‘like’ me or what I post and I’m not being pithy, smarmy, or snarky. It already feels good.
So here we are 99 days without logging into Facebook begins…if you want to see where it ends…you can see my countdown here..
And if you want to contact me – it won’t work to contact me on facebook. Try emailing me, commenting on this blog, calling me, or even sending me a letter.