Put yourself in their shoes. Would you have survived? Could you hack it under such conditions?
Oh, don’t pretend you’ve never thought about it. I mean, how did Dickens pull it off? What about Austen or Bronte? They didn’t have laptops for mobility, or word processing for easy editing, or iPods for drowning out the screaming babies and clattering horseshoes, or…Well, for that matter, they didn’t have thermostat-controlled work environments or soft reliable lighting.
I write at a desk upstairs, separated from my bed by a bookshelf. I write, preferably, by daylight, but the overhead light and fan do their job when necessary. I have slippers for winter time, but my toes still get cold despite the nearby heater vent.
Would I have survived? Would I be doing this for a living if I’d been born back then?
All modern comforts aside (give me a moment to turn off the cell phone ringer and put my computer on standby), I see a general lack of creative discipline all around, and I worry that it might rub off on me. Each time I prepare to cuddle with my muse and conceive another novel to push through my artistic womb–there’s some gender-bending for all who’ve followed recent blogs–I wonder if I’ve lost whatever it is that keeps me going, that keeps me coming up with new turns of a phrase or nuances on deep-seated fears. Will I fail to come through again? Will I answer the critics from the last go-around? Will I please the fans of my last literary effort?
In the midst of such pressure, I make myself a fresh cup of Sumatran (no wood-stoking or hand-grinding necessary), and wiggle the mouse till the computer comes back to life. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll have a new email or review to brighten my mood and send me skipping back to the upstairs work desk.
And then it happens. I spot two messages on myspace. Three more on facebook. Friend requests and comments. I realize there’s a misspelling on that silly new website I’ve been building for the past week, all in the name of saving myself a heap of cash. Will fans like it? Have they noticed my faux pas? (Hey, when you’re done reading this, feel free to visit the site and see if you can spot it.) As I mull such things, I go to one of my email accounts and see a fan letter, a request to speak at a local writers conference, an enquiry about discussion questions for my latest title–as if I’m trying to write literary masterpieces here…c’mon!–and a slew of other correspondence.
I question how I get anything done. Really. I feel pressured to keep up with the cyber-savvy Jones, especially all those writers whose web-presences loom larger than Hemingway. I’ve gotta stay on top of this. Gotta stay sharp. Stay hungry. Stay aw a kk kke e eeee.
Boy, I wish I lived back in the days of Oliver Twist, when there was at least a smidgen of Sense and Sensibility. It was easier then; I see that now. Fewer distractions. The simple life. I bet none of those hacks could’ve made it in today’s world. Those literary wannabes would’ve been locked away, disconnected from cyberspace, out of touch, and irrelevant. They would’ve gotten nowhere. Nowhere! I tell you.
Smug in this realization, I peek at my bookshelf. I spot Bram Stoker’s name, Dickens’, Hawthorne’s, Poe’s, and Verne’s. I wonder why it is they have new editions around when my first two novels are already out of print.
A new email pops up on my screen, erasing my questions with its synthetic appeal. I’ll work on my latest manuscript after lunch. After I tend to my Internet concerns. I’ve got a slew of things to keep up with.
Eat your heart out, Stoker–you would’ve never made it in these days of endless distraction.