I come out of the bedroom, tired and groggy, having just woken up. I am awake to see my wife off to work. This was yesterday. My wife is on the desktop computer.
“What are you doing?” I ask.
Cheerfully, she says, “Oh, I’m just changing this computer’s password. I already did your laptop. You’re locked out.”
“You spend too much time on the internet. So I’m focusing you.”
“But I have stuff to do on the internet.”
“It can wait.”
Arguing with my wife is a futile thing. Not because she’s stubborn, but because she’s extremely intelligent and, here’s the key bit, nearly always right.
So I was off the computer yesterday. And most of today.
So what did I do yesterday, all by myself in a computerless house?
I wrote by hand. Twelve pages. And cleaned the entire house, and did the dishes, and Zach’s laundry, and Zach sat on my lap while I wrote (something I really can’t do on the computer), and I meditated for half an hour, and watched a science show and went 1) mad without the internet and e-mail 2) worried that it had the capability drive me mad, I don’t like anything having that power 3) was incredibly productive.
Oh yeah, I read half of Treasure Island and 100 pages of a Greg Benford sci-fi novel.
Also, I am moving with a Gregory House limp because I bumped a shelf in the pantry when reaching for a box, higher up. The shelf collapsed. A very large can of baked beans (with molasses and smoked bacon, because it’s not real food without it) fell and the very edge of it landed on my right foot, just above my big toe, on the bone. I said a lot of bad words.
It’s extremely red, it supports no useful weight, it stiffens up easily, and I’m relatively sure that it’s at least a little bit fractured.
On the one hand, there are so many things for me to do — and things I need to do — on the internet. On the other hand…I am painfully aware of every moment I don’t spend writing, and even more aware that I am jobless outside of the house. I need to be writing. I need to be finishing a novel and selling things and when I don’t, it’s not slacking; it’s failing.
So I need to write. I sometimes have to remind myself that — again, sometimes — everything absolutely has to take a back seat and I have to write, damn it, write because the words don’t get down unless I put ’em there. And since The Nondescript has declared itself to be a very, very long novel, I have to give it my time.
This has happened before. It’s when my mind and work ethic get too far off the mark and I step in and fix them. This time, with the arrival of Zach, me shifting to a stay at home dad, a shift in how my brain works and processes, I didn’t step in and fix anything. It got worse, and I got worse.
It’s not just the internet (and it’s not because of the internet). It’s sort of like a person who cannot stop eating junk food and gets fat: It’s not the food’s fault. It’s the person’s weakness and inability to stop. Sometimes, because unless you actively think about it, it doesn’t occur to you to stop.
This time, my wife, who is far wiser than I can ever hope to be, stepped in and said “enough of that,” and left me with nothing to do but work and think and be quiet, be still.
So, because I still want to type on a computer, I’m downloading OpenOffice.org and putting it on a very, very old Dell laptop. It can’t handle anything else. It doesn’t know that there is even an internet which comes over anything but a phone line (something it certainly doesn’t do in this house; 5 MB cable internet here, thanks). It’s durable and handles me typing fast on it. And I can just put my novel there, I don’t have to worry about losing my formatting.
Fun Nondescript fact: I have not italicized a single word for any reason throughout the novel, and I refuse to do so. I don’t need ’em. I haven’t used ’em. A minor victory. I like it.
So anyway. I’ll be around, sporadically, but not in a hugely useful capacity. I’m still reachable through e-mail. How reachable, I don’t know. I came on yesterday evening and had close to eighty-five e-mails and I despaired and answered very few of them and went back offline. So in a way, failing to be caught up was useful.
I intended to finish The Nondescript before starting the Penman Shipwreck. I really wanted (and still do) to start the Penman Shipwreck with my next novel, The Neon God, a science fiction novel I finally understand how to write. However, the Nondescript ballooned into a massive, massive project. I still want to finish it by the end of December. I doubt it. We’ll see. Maybe with this forced vanishment, I can manage it.
Also. Someone, who is not among us today, e-mailed me yesterday and casually used the phrase “the proof is in the pudding.” If anyone ever says that to me again, I will break kneecaps. It is not a real phrase. Honest. The proof of pudding is in the eating. Or the proof of pudding is in eating of same, my favorite version. “proof is in the pudding” sounds like a place to look for a murder weapon.
So sayeth Pete. Who now logs off and sails quietly into thee, sweet night.