Friday, November 09, 2007

Loose Buttons, Junk Mail, and Dusty Refrigerators

At Paper Cuts, the New York Times' book blog, a different author is asked the same three questions every week. One of them is: "How much time - if any - do you spend on the Web? Is it a distraction or a blessing?"

I thought P.J. O'Rourke's answer today was amusing (and true):
I don't even know which end of a computer one is supposed to gaze into. I've never used a computer. I do all my writing on an ancient IBM Selectric. And I do my research in books. Once in a while I'll hire a college student to pull something off the Internet, if I need an up-to-the-minute statistic or a Lexis/Nexis search or that sort of thing. But that's as far as my use of the Web goes. This is not because I am a Luddite. It's because I have - as most writers do when they're writing - super-severe Attention Deficit Disorder. I can be distracted by a dust mote, a loose cuff button, an unopened junk mail solicitation from The Dizziness From Standing Up Too Fast Fund. I once had a conversation with some fellow writers about this problem. One of them summarized it as, "Gosh doesn't the top of the refrigerator need dusting?" If I had a computer I would do nothing but play with it all day.
Last month, I attended a talk by Lorrie Moore and Jeffrey Eugenides. During the Q&A period, someone asked Moore when her next book would be out. It was a question so predictable that there was a collective smirk among the audience when it was asked -- Moore has a fervent fan base, and her last collection was published more than eight years ago, so people are getting antsy. Anyway, in addition to saying she's been teaching and raising a kid alone after her divorce, both good excuses, Moore said maybe the biggest reason for her drop in productivity was the discovery of e-mail. If Lorrie Moore is so addicted to e-mail that she's writing less, what hope is there for us mere mortals? Lordy.


Blogger Drew said...

That's amazing. If I could tell my computer to block internet access for a few hours at a time, I'd probably be able to write volumes. In fact, as I type this now, I have a movie on, a Google chat going with my old roommate and tel other tabs open. It took me five times longer than necessary to even type this comment.

5:39 PM  

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