Writing from the public library. My macbook air, the most electronically opulent purchase of my life, is dead. I sank my savings into that gleaming piece of garbage because I’d heard it would last a long time. I’ve had it for two years, which is long enough for the warranty to expire. So it cost me 70 dollars for the apple people to diagnose it. They haven’t told me what’s wrong with it or how long it will take to fix.
But I’m determined to write and post, to weather the storms of privation with good cheer or ironic detachment. I’m willing to sit in the library among the vagabonds and public masturbators until I’ve sufficiently practiced my craft and contributed to our esteemed global discourse.
My bed finally arrived yesterday. Last night I slept like a king. It was so soft, so comforting and supportive. Then my computer died and I parked in front of a hydrant and got a ticket. So that’s another 75 dollars. The lord giveth and he taketh away.
The less time I spend on the internet the happier I am. Maybe I won’t get my laptop back. Maybe I’ll write by hand and post from the library every couple of days. The only thing I miss about the internet is writing; the rest is spiritual crack, a series of cheap, dirty highs and an increasing sense of despair and anxiety.
There’s always something else to do. Something with greater primacy, something more tangible, visceral and engaging. Walking, working out, playing an instrument, writing, building and repairing physical objects and being with people. Your parents, wife or girlfriend, your extended family, kids, friends, pets and plants. Go be with them. Do nothing, sit in silence rather than poke at screens and absorb the neuroses of hundreds of dislocated strangers.
We’re not designed to process so many conflicting opinions. We can’t consume and digest a bottomless feed of information. I haven’t had consistent access to wifi for a week and I’m already noticing a difference in my attention span. Books are becoming a pleasant diversion again rather than a tedious task.
And I’m thinking about the hyper-refined conditions of my writing. For years now I’ve been writing on a word processor while listening to music through headphones, typing with abandon, my thoughts keeping pace with my fingers flying over the keyboard as I backspace and delete with careless rapidity.
Thoughts come easier and cheaper when you can generate text so quickly and effortlessly. And the moment I feel boredom bubbling up I have open tabs awaiting me. I can dull the discomfort of a blocked thought or poorly expressed idea with a trip to youtube or cnn.com.
I don’t need to know what I’m writing about until I open a mainstream news site. Then I can pick from six inane op-eds and base my next piece on what some airheaded journalist said. Or browse comments sections and fuel my efforts with bile and exasperation.
And if I need to research a topic I can use wikipedia. If I need to check spelling or find another word there are online dictionaries and thesauruses. It takes seconds to track down the information I need. In contrast, I wonder how fluidly and consistently I could write if I had to do it with a pen and paper, if I needed books, encyclopedias and dictionaries sprawled out around me.
The shape and pace of my thoughts would change. The medium isn’t the message but it does influence and structure what we say. Writing on a personal laptop isn’t the same as writing on a public computer in a library. And typing isn’t the same as writing with a pen and writing with a pen isn’t the same as writing with a quill.
My session is running out. This was written quickly in an unfamiliar place without mood setting music. The disheveled ambiance of the library is hard to ignore but I have to write. I’m also out of the loop on the latest political developments. I know Houston is underwater and Trump is crushing the dreams of the children of criminals by rescinding daca. More on that later.