Welcome to another edition of ‘The Write Tools’: a blog series featuring authors, artists and their favourite tools.
Today’s guest is New Zealand novelist Rachael King, whose most recent book is Magpie Hall.
Rachael, your tool is Mac Freedom, which is almost an anti-tool. Can you explain?
When I’m writing, the internet has always been the equivalent of the water-cooler or the cigarette break. I write some, then I check my email or a few different websites, then I write some more. The trouble is that the internet started becoming like a magnet. It was utterly compulsive. Even when my writing was going well, my internet breaks started becoming more and more frequent. Like, every two minutes. I was drawn into its vortex, even if I told myself I wasn’t going to go there. It was as though I had no control. I didn’t. It controlled me.
So I installed Mac Freedom, which shuts off your connection for a specified amount of time. I usually go for 60 minutes. With no access to the internet, I had no choice but to write for 60 minutes. It was a revelation. I was writing more in those 60 minutes than I was in a whole day. The internet, while being an incredibly useful tool, is evil, evil, evil. I love it.
So your writing was suffering before you downloaded this? You were distracted by...what?
Yes, absolutely. I was looking at useful websites for research, but I was also spending a lot of time reading blogs (also useful of course) and visiting Facebook mostly. Sometimes if my writing was going badly, I thought I could find all the answers on the internet, if I could just work out what the questions were. Mostly the problem came from breaking my writing up so I never fully got into the dream. I was blown away by how much I could write in an hour once I was in ‘the zone’ again.
Can you describe the feeling of not being connected to the internet?
For the first few minutes, itchy. Then a little excited because I think of all the things that will be waiting for me at the end of the 60 minutes. Then relief. So sad.
But there's always Solitaire, or Tic-Tac-Toe, or some other computer amusement. Or is it only the internet that sucks you in?
Just the internet (Facebook has an excellent Scrabble programme – I am currently playing 6 games with friends, including my mother). I don’t even know if I have those other games on my computer. See, now I have to go and look. Thanks a lot.
Rachael, you're aware of my sad fountain pen fetish. Why not just use pen and paper?
I do! When things got too bad, before Mac Freedom, I often used to take my pen and exercise book to the closest café and write with all the bustle around me. I do like typing straight into the computer though as I can type faster than I can write with a pen and my hand can’t keep up with my thoughts. Also, it’s a hangover from the day my dad gave me his old typewriter and I decided that typing my thoughts rather than writing them made them better somehow.
Speaking of typewriters and pens, do you think yesteryear's authors were less distracted?
Oh absolutely. They just took the phone off the hook and away they went. If they wanted to do research they had to go to the library so they probably saved it all up to do it all in one day.