Viki (local white witch, astrologer and computer expert) spent several hours sorting this out for me. Part of the process involved me having to change into red clothes because of Mars. But let’s not go there.
You must understand that I am a Luddite of the first order. Technological change is anathema to me. I’m the one who tried to back up my work onto a mouse modem. Let’s not go there either.
I went Wireless because I wanted to be able to use my laptop in my attic study alongside my trusty old PC (1996 – the Luddite in me hates to let it go). And I wanted to do this because then I wouldn’t be continually drawn to checking my email at the kitchen table. Like many Luddites, I suspect, I am hideously addicted to any small technological thing I can do.
So now I have a sweet little white doo-dah with feet and a tiny tail (I keep wanting to feed it snacks because it crouches beside me in a permanent begging position) which sends magic rays to my laptop and allows it to work anywhere.
Anywhere. Suddenly, the umbilical cord which has tied me to the kitchen table has been cut. I sense freedom. For the first hours after Viki leaves, I wander the house with my laptop, drunk on all the possibilities. I can email in my attic! I can email in the garden! I can email in my living-room – here, where the sun shines! Ooh, I can email at the other end of my kitchen under the boiler! Oh my god - I can email sitting on the toilet! (which, given some of my output, may be the most suitable place for a Shitty First Draft.)
So why am I sitting back at my kitchen table writing this (in between obsessively checking my emails)? I suspect that this may be a turning point in my writing life. I thought I wanted to move forwards technologically. Now I think that I also need to move backwards.
Let me explain. Laptops and PCs are wonderful. In the click of a mouse they can take me to distant countries, can give me information on any subject I need to know about. I’m a very fast typist (I trained on old, metal-gilled recalcitrant typewriters, so the freedom of a touch-sensitive keyboard was like sprouting wings). I wrote my non-fiction book and my first novel on a PC – it came easily because the words seemed to leap straight from my head to the screen. Why, then, do I recently feel a deep yearning to write longhand, in a book?
Patrick Gale planted the seed. At a seminar, he passed around his first draft of Notes From An Exhibition – an A4 lined book, full of scribblings and notes and pages of longhand. For me, it felt like the Holy Grail, though I didn’t then know why.
Wirelessness represents freedom. Flexibility. Portability. Being able to pick up email anywhere is undoubtably an advantage. But where writing is concerned, I need to go back to basics. I need to go not only Wireless, but Machineless. After all, what’s the epitomy of portability and flexibility? The human hand. The pen, the paper. You can do it anywhere, plugless, wireless, bootless. There’s something intensely sensual and intimate about writing longhand. The contact between the body and the page. The way the words tumble out onto paper, ill-formed, awkward, scruffy, shitty.
So yes, I’m still scuttling back to my laptop-in-the-kitchen. But the seed is growing. Reculer pour mieux sauter. Because one day, one day soon, I will do it. I will roll up my sleeves and write longhand. And I will probably wear red.