Like many people in this day and age, my computer eventually took over my life. I work a full-time job in addition to my writing, which means that eight hours of every day is stolen from me and I try to cram all of my personal productivity and general information gathering into the remaining hours. It got to the point that I was physically in front of a computer from the moment I woke up (I work from home) until the time I went to bed with breaks only for food, bathroom, and sleep. I was spending 18 of 24 hours in front of a computer.
Then one day my computer died. Just died and then my world stopped. I completely freaked out. Had a panic attack. Cried a little bit and then went into problem solving mode. I was under deadline to my UK publisher. My second book was due in a month’s time and I was broke. A new computer just wasn’t feasible until I received my next quarterly royalty payment. I wasn’t sure what to do.
Work I squared away by borrowing my daughter’s father’s computer, but I had to give it back to him at the end of the work day. So that still left me short for personal writing. In the end, I did the only thing I could do … I busted out the pen and paper. I bought a notebook and set about finishing my book.
I learned a few things during the month I was forced to go without my computer:
1. My retention is greater when I use pen and paper. I was always forgetting the details that I needed to refer to later. Eye color, model of car, description of settings, etc. I would have to refer back to previous scenes. Writing long-hand enables me to retain much more information than when I type directly.
Ironically, it has also led me to be much more productive. I have don’t deal with eye strain or fatigue from sitting in the same position, I can write for much longer periods of time using a notebook than I can typing into my computer.
2. I’m always prepared when inspiration strikes and I never have to charge the battery. I always carried a small pocket notepad around, but often I wouldn’t understand what I meant days later. I carry my writing notebook everywhere and I no longer need to worry about things like being able to comfortably use my computer, batteries running out, or wondering what I meant. I just write out what I’m trying to say.
Just yesterday, I was at the golf range with my daughter and was struck by an idea for a new novel. I grabbed my notebook and wrote out the basic plot outline and various notes for characters and story structure.
3. There is a bigger world happening around me. When my computer died I had to actually look up and look around. I was no longer able to distract myself from my life and my responsibilities which were falling by the wayside as I’ve been going through some tough emotional times recently. I was forced to reconnect with the world and the people in my life. But, mostly, I was forced to connect with me and begin to deal with some issues I’ve been trying to ignore.
Since I replaced my computer, I don’t use it nearly as often. I still write my books long hand first even though it adds an additional step in the long run. It’s a good thing I type about 85 wpm. I’ve broken my dependency on the computer and it has translated to my smartphone as well. I removed the email client from my phone and took off anything that didn’t actually allow me to communicate with the important people in my life.
Six months after replacing my computer, I use it less and am much happier for it.