With regard to creative writing, I can say that Internet has ruined my life. Up to 1999-2000, my production (poems, short stories, two novels — a short one and a longer, more complex one) had been quite prolific and without serious writer’s blocks. Then the Web, electronic mail, newsgroups, etc., began a slow but inexorable erosion process: of my time, my energies, my ability to concentrate on a story and forget about the world outside. The time devoted to writing has grown thinner and thinner and today it’s almost nonexistent. The cruel irony is that because of what I do for a living and also thanks to my many technology-related interests, I find myself reading and writing on my Mac(s) all day, something that frustrates a lot of my creative side.
I soon came to the conclusion that it is not possible — for me at least — to creatively write sitting at the same desk, in front of the same setup where I work, read news, manage email, navigate the Web. When your main system is capable of keeping multiple applications open, it’s easy to be distracted by incoming emails and updated RSS feeds. Not to mention the temptation to search the Web by following the spur of the moment — when that happens, the best case scenario is that I find myself two hours later digesting a lot of information I found following link after link, yet without doing anything really productive.
The solution is to configure a setup without an Internet connection. No browsers, no emails, no distractions: just me, my ideas, and the word processor. Now that I’ve acquired the Apple IIGS ADB keyboard you see in the picture, which is the most compact (and robust) of the smaller line of ADB keyboards manufactured by Apple, I connected it to my Macintosh Colour Classic, and I’m using this beautiful compact Mac as a creative writing setup. Its portable counterpart is the eMate 300, which can be easily connected to the Colour Classic for text file transfers. Another mobile solution I’m working on is the clamshell iBook purchased on eBay a while ago, which I’d like to keep as a OS 9-only machine, to act as an efficient bridge between the ‘old’ and the ‘new’ world.
Since I started using this setup on a fairly regular basis, the creative drought seems over, thankfully. The effect of returning to a Mac with a 10-inch screen and System 7.1 is certainly interesting. There’s calm and much less chaos in the old System 7; that, and having a single application in the foreground is almost enough to inspire the creative process. I have yet to decide which writing tool to use; Word 5.1, WordPerfect, an old version of Nisus Writer or WriteNow? They are all excellent candidates, each with its pros and cons, although I tend to prefer WordPerfect and WriteNow. For the moment, I’m taking notes with the good old SimpleText and familiarising with all of these word processors. I’ll probably stick with WriteNow — it has a negligible impact on the mere 6 MB RAM installed, and has a simple yet powerful interface.
Furthermore, I must admit that using a Mac that boots in 40 seconds is amazingly refreshing!