Not long ago, I was listening to a radio interview with an author who had penned an article in (I think) the New York Times, explaining how we must practice disengaging from technology in order to enjoy our vacations properly. We are, as many have pointed out, so addicted to our devices that laying them aside is challenging. I returned from a holiday last week in which I put some of those recommendations into play. I resisted the urge to check my smart phone each time it flashed its come-hither signal. I limited my screen/keyboard time, and also—like Ulysses tying himself to the mast to resist the sirens–chose a destination where my cell phone coverage is uneven at best, and so avoided temptation by default. I had a lovely family vacation, but I could not go cold turkey. I still carried some submissions with me, a contract or two, and a proposal in need of very light editing. Happily, work reading is rarely so onerous that I need to leave it entirely behind. (True, I did not get to the Hilary Mantel novel I had hoped to read, but I did read Richard Ford’s Canada and Martin Amis’s Lionel Asbo: State of England. In the future, I will not leave best for last). As I fired up my laptop to read a revised proposal, I wondered whether vacations for writers means taking a vacation from writing or if the computer/typewriter/legal pad travels with you?
My treacherous, self congratulatory musings on quitting technology were overheard by my computer and my phone, and I was summarily punished with a bad tech day. My e-mails ran afoul of the spam filter of an entire publishing conglomerate. My own spam filter unaccountably waylaid important messages. My Blackberry’s battery has, seemingly overnight, lost the ability to hold a charge, and so I was dismayed to discover my quiet morning was not so quiet after all. Thereafter, I saved the wrong version of a proposal, overwriting its edited predecessor. Even now my computer is functioning at a molasses-like speed, each letter moseying its way to the screen.
Have you ever suffered a day in which it seemed all your technology was rebelling against you? It seems to me that writers, who rarely have the benefit of an IT department to rush to their aid, are especially vulnerable to tech melt-downs. If so, I’d welcome any suggestions for placating and propitiating the digital gods.