Last weekend I read an interview with Jonathan Franzen. For those of you currently dwelling on Mars, Mr Franzen has written a VERY IMPORTANT NOVEL called Freedom (if it's so serious and highbrow, why did he name it after a George Michael song eh?). It has taken him nine years to write. No fear though, because all the book pages bores and various literati have given him a lifetime's coverage. Of course, Jonathan hates interviews. Absolutely despises them. Which is why he's given four thousand of them in a week.
I don't mean to sound bitter or jealous. I actually enjoyed The Corrections a great deal and I will read Freedom. I just think Jonathan's a bit of a pillock, all told. All that desperately studied seriousness, refusing to be included in Oprah's book club (Oprah wept buckets apparently), just made him look like a pompous arse. But the books were good so who cares, and I don't suppose it's his fault that every Thomas, Richard and Harriet is so keen to swoon over him and his art.
The reason I bring the interview up here is because one snippet of information struck a chord. Apparently Jonathan works in an office with no TV, no stereo, no other books and, most staggeringly of all, no Internet connection. I found that intriguing because I've come to the conclusion the Internet has taken over my life, the distraction that trumps all others.
I totted up all the things I use the Internet for. There's research, both real and spurious. Emails, of course, some to field, some to send. In the mornings, there's the online newspapers. Oh and the BBC for news too. A bit of online banking too. I glance at my Facebook page for any comments. Then there's my daily sports fix. Various websites and message boards tracking the latest woes that have befallen Liverpool FC/England cricket team/Boston Red Sox, often with video highlights. Then there's my music fix. A quick glance at gig listings for upcoming concerts, news of new releases, reviews of the already released and perhaps a surreptitious glance at some, ahem, less known websites with a few leaked albums to try before you buy. Then there's my Twitter feed, with all the people I follow, most of whom link to other articles on other pages and so on. Then a visit to a few crime writing blogs, followed by a quick narcissistic trawl by Amazon to see if anyone's written anything nice or nasty about my books, or if any of them have mysteriously catapulted into the 'hot' 100 while i slept. Or even the chilly 5000. By the time all that's done, it's been a while since I checked my emails. There may be a breaking news story, or live sport to keep an eye on...I'm actually amazed I get any work done. If that's not bad enough, away from my PC I have a phone that allows me to do all the above. Even my children have started rolling their eyes when they walk in the room and see me playing with my mobile.
The fact is, I'm addicted. It's pointless denying it. All that information, useless at it may be, is out there, and easy to access. My brain wants it, for no other reason than it can. A 1001 and one diversions from the task of sitting down to write. And we all know that's about a 1000 more than most writers need.
So, I'm taking a leaf out of The Franzster's book. I can't afford the beautifully austere Manhattan office. I can't even afford an office. But I can switch my broadband router off. And that's what I'm going to do. Every morning off it goes until lunchtime. The phone left charging downstairs. Just me and my latest book. And I promise it won't take me nine years to write it.