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.

6 Responses to

  1. Esther says:

    I typed a long-ish comment here that I can’t really retype… but because I entered the wrong captcha, everything got erased. :( Just thought I’d let you know. It doesn’t seem as though your site has a cache for wrong captchas, or something (not really sure how it works, but yeah).

    Nice post, though. :)

  2. Sarah Henson says:

    When I vacation, which is rare, I try to leave everything behind. Sometimes I even, gasp, turn my phone off. (I know, I’m amazing, haha). I can’t turn my brain off though, so I carry a small moleskin in my purse to jot down story ideas or plot developments as they come to me. I don’t do any actual writing until I return home though.

  3. EDWARD says:

    As I sit at my laptop and respond to your blog, you don’t really expect me to say that technology sucks, do you? But there are many pitfalls that have not yet come to the surface. Before computers, Jack Kerouac had the habit of sitting in the back seat and writing on an endless roll of shelf paper. When Truman Capote heard of this, he quipped “That’s not writing. It’s typing!” Technology has always given people who others think have questionable talent to burst out to the front of the pack. It’s nothing new. But to intentionally open wide the door and allow in the dumb people in massive herds: that the Americans in the 21st century seem to have a monopoly on. There are many people who owe their careers to technology, not their merits as an artist. I am sure you can think of many with little prompting. I think Capote and Kerouac were both gifted in there own way; that is what makes the example so stunning. And historic.

  4. Siri Kirpal Kaur Khalsa says:

    My favorite vacations are the ones where my husband goes somewhere and I stay home on a writing retreat.

    I don’t own a cell phone, and wouldn’t if you paid me. But sometimes the digital demons do get loose anyway. My husband just tweaked the computer so it would function better.

  5. Maggie says:

    Congrats on *almost* disconnecting. It’s a challenge, for sure!

    My Blackberry pulled a similar trick lately, and someone suggested taking the battery out for a few minutes, then putting it back in. If some battery-sucking process is running in the background, this will interrupt it. It worked for me – might be worth a try if you haven’t done it already.

  6. What a coincidence! I had a hard-drive crash and phone crash this past week. Hmmm. Maybe we both need a sacrifice to the IT gods….
    As for vacation–if I don’t have time to write, it is not a vacation. Okay, that is not absolutely true, but I get antsy without writing time. Maybe that’s because I juggle a job with my writing, and one day, when I am writing full time, I will welcome time off from “work.”

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