Going Virtual, Staying Real

origin_2435823037In case you’re wondering, I’m writing this (at least the first draft) by hand, in a spiral notebook with a fountain pen. My laptop makes a great lap desk. I like the new paper against the back of my hand and the ink easing from my pen tip. Writing can be a calming, sensory delight.

These days I’m spending more of my day than ever before on the computer—on the internet, even, where privacy doesn’t exist and stimulation is the rule. I’ve ventured into new social media territory, I’m introducing myself to dozens of bloggers, I’m sending email newsletters, I’m reading online journals, all for the sake of connecting my new novel to potential readers. What happens online is thrilling. I hear from old friends. I meet writers who are fun and important. I discover publications I respect and want to participate in. The internet connects me to people and communities around the globe. I like it’s fast, vibrant, connective culture.

But some days I shut my computer and look up to find that the candle I lit at the beginning of work has burned for three hours without my noticing. I need a few minutes to adjust to reality—to my stiff body, to the clutter of books and bills, to my partner’s presence, to my hungry belly. Despite being in this room I’ve been entirely elsewhere, and this fact disturbs me. Reality shouldn’t come as a surprise.

So I’m making a concerted effort to stay real—thus the pen and paper. Here are my goals. I want to turn off the internet when I’m writing. I want to use the internet only when it’s needful. I want to keep the computer closed when my daughter is around. I want to turn it off by 8 p.m. so I can have a real evening with Emily, reading books or playing games. I want one day a week and one week a year when I leave the computer behind. I want to live here, in this flesh, on this slushy April morning with the robins pecking in the grass, in this beloved and messy home, in this city full of art and injustice and smelly buses, on this precarious, spinning earth. I want this with such conviction that I’m putting my commitment online. Perhaps we can leverage this virtual community in support of the real.              –Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew

photo credit: quapan via photopin cc

6 thoughts on “Going Virtual, Staying Real”

  1. Amen to your pledge to put the internet back in its rightful place in your life. I wish for the same thing for myself and for my life as a teacher and writer. I’ve also been traveling to promote my book, and as enlivening as that can be, I welcome my solitary time at home by the fire. Thanks for sharing. One of these days my travels will take me to MN where perhaps I can meet you in person. In person is another one of life’s deepest blessings.

    1. Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew

      Sheila, I like your terms–“Rightful place.” Yes. It’s a tool. It’s not life.

      I’m so happy that your book is bringing you out into the world! Any more writing in your future?


  2. Yes. and Yes. and YES again. Reality should not come as a surprise! I love this commitment and I join you in it! It feels absolutely unreal that we have to advocate for a community of the real, but we have to! I get so scared riding my bike home in the twilight and seeing the light of smart phones illuminating everyone’s faces at bus stops and on the corners. It literally frightens me. Thanks for articulating this so perfectly!

    1. Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew

      And here we are, also creating a virtual community. So many paradoxes! But it’s really about balance, yes? And setting healthy limits. So hard to do!

  3. Hi Elizabeth
    I’m loving your blogs and your church one in particular.
    My church is in my blood, also. So much so that I have included its link in my blog.
    It is my home away from home, my sanctuary, and my extended family.
    I’m happy to have happened on you this morning. 🙂
    Patricia Ann

    1. Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew

      Dear Patricia,

      Glad to hear you’re enjoying the blogs! And that you’re so in love with your church. That’s a rare and precious experience these days. I love my church deeply, and am deeply conflicted about it–which makes for good writing! Thanks for sharing your website.


Leave a Comment