Here’s one more way modern digital technology is making our lives worse.
In times past, I’d never leave the house without a little notebook in my pocket. The plastic jacket provided handy pockets for business cards. More importantly, meanwhile, the front of the diary served as a day planner, where I’d enter appointments and other reminders from front to back as far ahead as the future boded. The back of the book was where notes for posterity went—where in idle moments I’d record snatches of dialogue, local color, names for characters, outlines for stories, books I wanted to read, books I wanted to write and so on. In months when I felt like a real writer—when I tended to look at the world through eyes that saw more and saw it in new ways—back and front would meet in a “middle” that came far nearer the beginning of the diary than the end. In months when bread-and-butter work overwhelmed the fiction writer in me, that meeting of front and back came closer to the end. An excellent measure of how cozy the Muse and I’d been lately.
Recently I was going through an old pocket diary from 1997, back in my full-on freelancing days, and I found this note towards a character:
The pocket diaries were a barometer of how creative he’d been at any given time. This particular diary was a case in point. There was almost nothing in the back, the back section the skinnier for his being utterly distracted by commercial writing jobs. (When the fiction was really cooking, on the other hand, the backs filled up a lot faster than the front.) Of course, he had earned more that month than just about any other since he’d started this game.
I was writing in the third person, but I was talking about me. (Just as with Kicking Dogs, though I was writing in the first person, I was talking about Jack Shackaway, a character who camps on my blogsite from time to time and now claims it was really him who wrote Dogs and I’m nothing but a plagiarist).
In any case, modern gadgetry has pretty well spelled an end to my home-grown creativity meter. Now I carry an iPhone and, as often as not, a notebook computer, both with calendars and PAs. I’ll still have a sturdy wee paper notebook in my bag, but it tends to fill up over a year, instead of just a few weeks, while daily reminders and seeds of deathless literary efforts alike are scattered everywhere, so there’s no telling whether I’ve been in creative mode or not.
Not unless I have some actual stories finished, of course, which hasn’t been happening often enough of late.