Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Tweeting on Jane Austen's birthday

Today, 16th December, is Jane Austen's birthday. She would have been 234, a fine age.

My fascination with Jane Austen fuels a lot of my more idle hours. I'm probably not alone in having regular daydreams about conversing with that lady in person. I frequently drift off into scenarios whereby she somehow time travels into the present day, and I get to be her own personal tour guide to the 21st century. What would she make of the clothing, the food, the furnishings of our homes? How would she cope with travelling in a car at 120kph, would she be afraid of addling her brains?

And what, I wonder, would an inveterate Regency letter-writer make of our communications technology?

This morning so far, I have read and posted several tweets, sent and received text messages, made a phone call, received some emails, checked the weather online and am now blogging. Jane Austen did all of her communicating - at a much slower pace - from a small wooden table in a dining room with a squeaky door.

Jane Austen wrote in a vacuum. She knew no other writers, was not a member of a writer's group, didn't even attend seminars on publishing. No-one tweeted her helpful hints on finding the crucible in her work, no fellow bloggers gave her tips on overcoming writer's block, she was not a member of a forum who would help keep her from being down during nine unhappy, unproductive years in the middle of her life. She didn't even have a copy of the Writers' and Artists' yearbook to thumb through when she was tired.

Lovely husband is buying me a shiny new netbook for Christmas, to add to a household of two desktop computers, two laptops and two iphones. A netbook is not necessary to my life, I can manage perfectly well without it; but during darling daughter's most recent illness, when she was out of school for nearly two weeks straight, I got precious little work done. Why? Because I felt too guilty to leave her on the sofa in the sitting room watching telly and go into the office (the next room!) to work. So for the future, whenever I have a sick child snuggled up against me I can have my netbook on my knee, my own version of a convenient little wooden table. Did Jane Austen ever even dream of such luxury?!

But as I sit here writing this, my mind is in several other places at once. I can't help wondering what tweets I'm missing, and what the quote of the day is; whether there is any good stuff new on eBay today, or about updates on Pemberley.com; and if I check the weather again, will it tell me this time that it's going to snow? Then there are blog posts I've marked and not yet read, free book downloads that people are plugging that I feel obliged to look at, my own research to read, and I still haven't even started writing....

Sometimes I feel like disconnecting it all and dragging out a little wooden table to just sit and write at. No wonder Jane Austen achieved so much in her short life.


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