I did not grow up with computers around me. I am definitely not a first generation internet user. Much of the first creative things I wrote in my life were in long hand on rough sheets of paper, and later on an abandoned typewriter in my father’s lounge. Today there are kids growing up who probably never spent a day without getting on the computer. Whether they are smarter or more efficient than us is beyond me, but I do know that there is some kind of thrill in my current adaptation to a 24hour electronic cycle. The book is dead, I’ve heard, incredulously, and yesterday when I tried to read the current edition of Time magazine in print, I found a certain kind of lazy resistance, and some unexplainable wonder that they still make paper editions of those in this age of the internet. It must be why I spend so much time trying to to finish reading a book of just 300 pages. There’s definitely a sort of taking over by the internet, and I’m surprised to be on the train, considering that my first email address was just ten years ago.
Right now, I’m going through a phase, a certain self-examination for the purpose of blogging, wondering whether it ever replaces the need for books and publishing. What’s the line between real life and a blog that is known and tied to the writer? In ideal situations, I should send my poems first to journals and literary magazines rather than publish them by myself on the blog, right? However I’ve observed a certain sense of impatience in myself that may have conditioned a different way of behaviour that has me publishing them here first of all before I show them to publishers, asking whether they want them in their journals. Most of them say NO, of course, citing the fact that I’d already published them online in some form. I blame my e-conditioned impulsiveness to have absolute control on the when and the how. There is no other way to explain the fact that I never get the urge to write anything most times until I’ve signed into WordPress, clicked on “New Post”, and having a blank post page staring at me. A few years ago, it was a blank page in Microsoft Word that elicits that kind of mental stimulation. It was the same kind of electronically conditioned inspiration that I used to get while staring at the rusty typewriter on my father’s lounge. The question then is, what will I do with the bubbly impatience that never let go of me as soon as I complete a piece of work that makes me happy but which I can’t show to anyone? It is a morbid fear of losing it, I guess, or having something happen to me before the work makes it to the public that mostly takes my hand to the “publish” button, and I’m satisfied. I found a similar kind of paranoia in a writer William Boyd who I heard admit in a recent Youtube video tour of his writing space to having always kept his manuscripts in the refrigerator because they were safer there, at least from fire in the event of an outbreak.
For my paranoia, I can only hope to write so much more, and (ah-ha!) seek an American publisher. Maybe the blog might help in that ambitious quest. Gone were the days when the pleasure was in jotting on scrap notebooks and book margins. These days, the inspiration comes from an e-blank page and the rasping of my Dell laptop keys. I can’t complain.
PS: My first electronically published short story will be published in an anthology of short stories from Africa entitled “African Roar” and published by Lion Press UK in January 2010. Considering that it will now be in a book form for the first time, I won’t be putting up a link to the full work online here, as much as I wish to do so right now. Ask me for the rationale, and I’ll say it’s the dynamics of the new media. (Or what do you think, Ivor?)