by Susan Wittig Albert
From my journal, February 20, 2008 (published in AN EXTRAORDINARY YEAR OF ORDINARY DAYS)
Yesterday was not an ordinary day.
For the dozen years that we’ve been on the Internet here at our house in the Texas Hill Country, we’ve been on “dial-up.” I could grow old, very old, waiting for the monitor screen to fill.
But that’s changing. Yesterday, we had a satellite dish installed on the house and I am now plugged in to the wide, wide world. Now, the signal whizzes 23,000 miles up to the satellite and back down to my desktop in less time than it takes to type a sentence. Fully wired, always on.
So? Does any of this make me a better writer? Without a doubt. The facts I might be tempted to guess at if it meant a trip to the library (or even a trip to a bookshelf in the other room) are now as handy as a Google search. The writing is more richly detailed, more comprehensive and accurate, more up-to-date.
And having email makes it easy to reply to readers, a task that many writers have found difficult. In her journals, May Sarton complains bitterly about having to write (by hand) replies to “friends of the work.” In his memoir, LIFE WORK, poet Donald Hall says that he solves the problem by spending a couple of hours every evening dictating, then turning the dictation over to a typist. I spend an hour a day–sometimes morning, sometimes evening–cleaning up the email. Yes, it takes time. No, it’s not a burden. I’m just glad that there are people out there in the world, reading what I’ve written and caring enough about it to tell me what they liked–or didn’t. (Which they do.)
But now I wonder: am I am too dependent on the Internet? What would I do if it went away? How would I do the research, read newspapers, pursue information? Would I have to go back to using what we contemptuously call “snail mail”?
Hope it never comes to that. I wouldn’t care to responsible for what might happen.
Susan Wittig Albert is the best-selling author of four mystery series and several works of nonfiction. She founded the Story Circle Network in 1997.