Remember the days of dial-up? I was living with my mum back then; neither of us needed the internet for work or school, nor did we feel the desire to spend lots of money on a fast connection, so we had dial-up for a bit longer than some other people. Every day at 6pm (it was cheaper after 6), my mum would switch on the modem and log in. To that unmistakable, seemingly endless sound of our little flat connecting to the world, I would sprint back to my room and get to work – I had 60 minutes and not a second longer.
Interestingly, I don’t quite remember what I did during my daily hours of internet connection. I believe I downloaded stories to read (fanfiction was a big deal by then, and that’s all I’ll say on that topic) and read through discussion forums I couldn’t keep up with because everyone else in them was online all day. Maybe I did homework sometimes.
What I do remember is everything I did when I wasn’t online. I still spent most of my day on the computer – a slow, clunky light grey desktop PC with a monitor the size of fifteen or so Macbooks stacked on top of each other. But since there was no world wide web to distract me, I could only use what I already had. That is, the stories I’d downloaded the day before, and Microsoft Word.
I wrote thousands of words of fiction during those years. None of them were ever intended for publication anywhere, and I didn’t give a fuck. I wrote because writing was what I did. And when I wasn’t writing or reading, I spent hours coding and making graphics; I had a blog back then (just one long running HTML page, because I couldn’t be arsed with blogging software), and I think I got to around 70 different designs before I abandoned the entire thing.
Eventually we did get a faster and cheaper connection, said goodbye to the noisy modem and hello to distraction 24/7. I think it was a year later when I told my mum I missed the old days; now that there was always something happening my computer didn’t feel like my own private world anymore. There was a constant pressure to be looking at things.
I still feel that way. I’d just forgotten I did.
It’s 5.15pm now. Today I finished reading two books. I went to yoga, and then ran some errands. I’ve been writing for several hours, and after posting this I’ll write some more and then learn lines for a play I have coming up, even though I don’t have to be off-book for another month. I’ve been online for less than an hour today.