Mark Mayes, author of The Gift Maker, discusses the role of the internet in his writing life.
All in all, the Internet plays an indispensable part in my practice as a writer, and indeed, as a reader. Certainly, I could write and read stories, poems, a novel, what have you, without it, but it would feel that something was missing — that I’d deliberately and perversely jettisoned some vital essence of modern life, which also happens to be deeply enmeshed with the writing process, and its attendant activities, for (I would imagine) most writers, and many readers, now.
Having made this claim, I could perhaps imagine having seemingly endless time without the Internet, once ‘freed’ from its innumerable webs. Addiction to ‘meaningless’ (but what would constitute utter lack of meaning here?) checking of social media and other sites is a real issue, a veritable time-drainer, and maybe even a soul depleting activity — sometimes.
I’ve recently reduced my belongings to more or less what I can physically carry. I can’t lug around twenty dozen dictionaries, grammar books, fact compendiums, classic works, etc. to aid me when writing or editing. Fortunately, it’s all out there in cyberspace. And free. And constantly being refined and updated, at inordinate speed. Caveats as to the quality of information/reference, of course, apply.
For submission of poetry and fiction, the most up-to-date information is not in the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook anymore – it’s on the websites of the relevant journals and organisations. How else are you going to find out when such-and-such magazine is open for submissions? Likewise for competitions.
And then there is the camaraderie of other writers and readers – which I know isn’t everyone’s bag, but I certainly feel a sense of kinship with writers and readers and book bloggers across the world, most of whom I’ve never actually met, and may never. This applies to songwriting, too, exemplified by wonderful music sharing sites, such as Soundcloud. It’s a ‘finding your tribe’ type of deal – and a tribe that is in dynamic flux (good name for a band, that). You follow others’ paths – their successes and frustrations. It is meaningful if you wish it or need it to be.
When it comes to reading, the Internet looms large for me. I remember the days when I vowed I’d never read a novel, or even a short story, off a screen. All that’s changed. Most of my reading these days is via a digital medium – whether it be short stories, flash-fiction, or poems across an ever-expanding and rich selection of webzines, or whole books via my Kindle app. I still love physical books, mind you – and always shall. And they will always be around, or so I hope.
I have quite a lot of work saved on my computer, and not only there. It exists in backup on Dropbox, stored in about seven email accounts, and on multiple sticks and discs. I’m paranoid about losing it – it’s all a bit mad really. I used to print everything – several times. No longer necessary, or wanted, considering my desire to remain as ‘light’ as possible. I still like writing with a pen or pencil – but once I have, I type it up, and then send it on to my multiple digital repositories. If I settle again, for some time, this practice might change somewhat. Right now, it suits.
So, in conclusion – please don’t take away my Tinternet – it’s allowing me a sense of freedom and spontaneity, as well as an expansive and on-going opportunity to commune with other readers and writers. Fifteen years ago, I’d never have thought or felt any of this, but as old Mr Zimmerman opines: Things have changed.
Mark Mayes’ debut novel, ‘The Gift Maker’, was published in February 2017, with Urbane.