I am a product of my generation and that means when you walk into my flat, you'll find an excess of technology. I have my laptop which is my mean place of work and leisure. You'll see my printer, and then you'll probably find a digital camera, then a netbook, a kindle, mobile phone and an iPad mini. All sounds a bit much, doesn't it? Compare all of that to a reasonably comfortable family for four, the parents will have a laptop each, then maybe a work mobile phone, and then a personal one. In place of a family computer there will be an iPad, and then if we get down to the kids they'll each have a laptop, phone, MP3 digital cameras and probably an iPad each. That's not even counting what sort of speakers/docking stations they have. I can confidently say that most households these days will have some sort of internet device within reach in every room of their house, minus the bathroom (and iPads and other devices mean the loo magazine will be a thing of the past.)
This post isn't an attack on the modern gadget culture, I admit I am partial to good marketing and have an iPad mini. It's not hard to see that with all of this stuff around me, and since my internet was installed under a month ago, my writing output has just fallen. I decided today to have a little look about online for inspirational writing quotes and found this wonderful one from Ernest Hemmingway:
'There is nothing to writing. All you do it sit down at a typewriter and bleed.'
Now that doesn't make me want to start using my blood for ink, but it makes you think, and as a young writer of my generation constantly surrounded by Facebook, twitter, laptops and tablet computers galore, writing has become a little second rate. It feels its the statement of what I'm writing on. When laptops came cheaper and readily available, and Starbucks coffee started to dominate every street corner, a sudden magical combination happened; the coffee shop writer. I'm sure in a hundred years' this will be the classic image, rather than Shakespeare with a quill, it's going to be someone with funky hair, extra thick glasses, a laptop and his decaf extra frothy capalattecino sitting faithfully at his elbow like a well trained dog. The image of writing has changed, and with that the advice has too.
This has then lead me to look at the famous writing desks of our most beloved and famous writers. Jane Austen wrote her novels at a tiny table under a window, she favoured this particular spot because the stairs outside her room creaked, which gave her enough time to tuck away any of her work.
It doesn't really look like much, but it looks comfortable enough for someone to write a few pages each morning. I bet she didn't spend weeks trawling the internet for a perfect writing desk either.
Earnest Hemmingway is a little closer in our writing era than Jane Austen, he used a typewriter and lived in a very beautiful country and found his inspiration there. A quick google search reveals his desk to be a table in a library. This is of course what most writers dream of writing in, but the thought of being surrounded by all that dust isn't appealing to my poor sinuses.
The thought of writing a whole novel with pen and paper just makes me cringe at the thought of the cramp I'd get in my neck and back and wrist. But in Jane Austen's day you certainly did not get any government advice on how best to sit and have access the latest range of ergonomic furniture. She simply did it. Most writers won't write in a bad environment such as one with noise or bad smells.
This image is the ever popular sort of writing for most writers. I admit I've been one of those types who likes to look out of the window more than I'm looking at my laptop. At university I was always out and about with my laptop in tow because I felt comfortable with being a coffee shop writer and I liked to get out. Sadly that was where I spent a good portion of my money, coffee wasn't cheap and I felt to justify my stay I'd have to buy a couple cups, and then I'd get peckish and muffin would soon follow... writing at home is a little cheaper on the wallet and I can enjoy good coffee thanks to my nice coffee machine (yes, more gadgets!). Since moving out to my own place, to a new town, I've found there is a lack of places really to hunker down and write. Where I was comfortable in a coffee shop, I feel now I stick out like a sore thumb. A attitude that that will have me never leaving my flat, I know, but the only place I'd feel comfortable writing is a chain coffee shop, and that's a trek across town, and their coffee can leave me feeling slightly queasy. At home it is then. This is my current writing space. It's a cheap table from Ikea, I do have a beautiful wooden writing bureau at home, but it's heavy and not quite practical enough. I don't really like having my printer on the desk, but you have to make do.
I think as technology advances, writers will be searching for the perfect apps and advice books on how to write, how to plan their works. I was pleased to find a whole section on writing apps and novel planning apps on my iPad the other day. Then I sat back and thought for a few moments. I have a degree and a Masters in Creative Writing. I find myself watching horror films to pick apart the themes and how they structure the scary bits. I've been reading (proper) books since I was 10, and been writing since I was about 13, so why am I really thinking about downloading random apps that take up memory? Isn't a notebook and a pen enough to get me started on planning a story?
I'm still making a journey as a writer to find my perfect writing zen, so in a bizarre way to avoid technology within my reach of every room, I've decided to purchase a typewriter. I'm eagerly awaiting its arrival. I'm excited about exploring the prospect of writing with nothing to click on or distract me. I'll need a dictionary at my elbow of course, as my spelling is just terrible, but slowing down and wasting paper is probably a good way to learn more about my own writing process.