Does anyone remember back to the time when it was believed new gadgets–washers and dryers, vacuum cleaners, dishwashers, word processors and even (gasp!) computers–would make our lives easier, reduce the working week, give us more leisure time in which simply to enjoy our lives? Boy, did everyone get that prediction wrong!
When I started writing back in the ’80s, I had a busy life. I was a school principal and high school English teacher, and I had three school-age children and a home to run. Writing was my leisure activity, the thing I did for myself when all else was done for the day. Even when I was able to quit teaching to write full time, being a writer was a reasonably relaxed thing. By that time I had a computer and (glory be!) a printer, but the internet and email were still things of the future. I saw and heard from readers and other writers only at infrequently-attended book conventions and via snail mail. All I had to do with my working time was write. I remember once asking my editor if I should do some advertising. She sounded puzzled. Why should I? It would be so much waste of time and money. I wrote the books, the publisher published them and promoted them. It made sense to me. It was an isolated life. I used to write all day. It was uncomplicated. Between books I could relax and/or catch up with things I had been neglecting. If I went away from home for a while, I could leave my writing behind and have a real holiday.
How times have changed! I swore I would never have anything to do with the internet and email–too time-consuming. But finally I did and of course that was just the start. A few years ago I made the decision to slip gracefully into semi-retirement and write just one book a year–four months or so of work, eight of leisure. I pictured myself rather like the lady in the picture above, complete with long white dress. Don’t ask me why I am now back to writing two books a year–I’m not sure I even know myself. And suddenly, starting a year or so ago, it was no longer enough to have email and a web site that I conscientiously updated about twice a year. I needed to be on Facebook. I needed to change my web site so that I could interact more with readers by blogging. I needed to blog more generally all over the internet. I needed to make more appearances, do more interviews. And it’s not finished yet. Twitter looms. So does Goodreads. Now my laptop goes wherever I go, like an extra appendage. I don’t do smart phones–not yet, anyway.
I do, by the way, enjoy all these activities. The close interaction with readers and writers and other interested persons is an unexpected delight and has certainly taken away the sense of isolation that can so easily cling about a writer. Although I sometimes think it would be nice just to shut everything down, I’m not sure I would be able to now that I have grown accustomed to them. I am, though, busier now than I ever was. I used to start writing immediately after breakfast when my mind was fresh. I still do–but after I have dealt with email and Facebook, and that all takes close to an hour. And those things have to be checked constantly through the day. On Tuesday evenings (like right now!) I write a new blog piece for my web site and draw the name of last week’s winner. There are newsletters to send out every time a new book is about to be published. Retirement? Ha! What’s that? Semi-retirement? Forget it.
I have written all this, not because I think I am somehow different from the masses, but because I know very well I am not. An awful lot of people are an awful lot busier than I am. The question is–have we become slaves of our gadgets, or are they our very welcome servants? Or our much resented servants? How have gadgets changed your life? Has the change been for the better of the worse? How do you manage your time–or don’t you?
To one randomly-chosen person who makes a comment below, I will send a signed copy of THE PROPOSAL, either in hardcover or in U. S. paperback or in British paperback, or in CD audio format–winner’s choice. Last week’s winner was Nicole (last name and location still unknown)