Word-processing vs. writing

While you sit at your computer now, the world seethes behind the letters as they appear on the screen. You can toggle to a football match, a parliamentary debate, a tsunami. A beep tells you that an e-mail has arrived. WhatsApp flashes on the screen. Interruption is constant but also desired. Or at least you’re conflicted about it. You realize that the people reading what you have written will also be interrupted. They are also sitting at screens, with smartphones in their pockets. They won’t be able to deal with long sentences, extended metaphors. They won’t be drawn into the enchantment of the text. So should you change the way you write accordingly? Have you already changed, unwittingly?

Or should you step back? Time to leave your computer and phone in one room, perhaps, and go and work silently on paper in another. To turn off the Wi-Fi for eight hours. Just as you once learned not to drink everything in the hotel minibar, not to eat too much at free buffets, now you have to cut down on communication. You have learned how compulsive you are, how fragile your identity, how important it is to cultivate a little distance. And your only hope is that others have learned the same lesson. Otherwise, your profession, as least as you thought of it, is finished.

Tim Parks