Thanks to the filtering powers of Twitter, I enjoyed this post-Sydney Writers’ Festival piece from YA author Claire Zorn, as published in Overland recently.
I’d have responded to it earlier but … hey, not enough hours in the day and all that. I mean, as a parent, husband, author, freelancer, blogger, Twitterer, school councillor, cyclist, reader, writing workshopper… sigh. As someone wearing many hats, there’s a constant babble of demands, some more discretionary than others.
Ms Zorn reports on a SWF session entitled ‘Can Literature Survive the Digital Age?’, during which author Cate Kennedy re-spun the question as ‘Can writers survive the digital age despite all the tweeting distractions?’
It’s a valid question. I started blogging to promote my first book, then tweeting (initially) to plug my blog. Now Twitter helps me streamline my web-surfing. Rather than checking a long list of blogs and news sites, I can visit the big tree, see who is tweeting what, enter into the banter or move on. It’s a great way to ‘meet’ and interact with other authors, readers, reviewers and more.
So it can be a time-saver. But it can be a time-waster and, as it throbs with fresh tweets, a procrastinator’s worst enemy.
Ms Kennedy fleshes out her argument in Overland, suggesting that the constant distractions of social media such as Twitter and Facebook are an author’s enemy. She says the ideal mental state for writing involves welcoming emptiness and solitude and mastering your own restless boredom.
She’s right. It’s a constant battle for me. While it’s reassuring to know that other authors are struggling with edits, plot twists and finances (via Twitter, status updates and more,) my writing works best in silence.
I finished Game as Ned in a room above a friend’s garage without Internet, email or any distractions (apart from a table laden with Thomas the Tank Engine toys). Much of Five Parts Dead was written in another friend’s spare room, also disconnected from the wireless world.
I work better when I’ve had time to distance myself from the babble, savour the silence and let ideas grow. This is why I’m envious of the musician Bon Iver, who apparently went into the wilderness to heal himself and returned with an album that has won a cult following.
It’s also why my novels both germinated in periods of stillness and/or solitude – a summer landscaping at a Mt Macedon garden and a holiday at a remote lighthouse. Time slows down. The senses numbed by daily life are revitalised.
As I turn my mind back to Book 3, I’ll be seeking that silence once again.
Incidentally, Ms Zorn mentions catching a SWF session with author/cartoonist Josh Neufeld. Wish I’d got to that one. Mr Neufeld’s non-fiction comic A.D: New Orleans After the Deluge is a powerful, multimedia experience online. It hooked me, big-time and shows what a force cartooning can be.