This week I have an appointment to get my cataracts checked so I thought I’d prepare for one inevitable question: how much time do I spend looking at a screen? I was horrified by the answer. What used to be five or six hours a day has grown, thanks to lockdown, to nine hours. Work is the least of it. I get my news online, plus most of my correspondence. It’s where I’ve bought birthday and Christmas presents for my grandchildren because all the shops are shut. I speak to family and friends by Skype, go to church on Zoom and for the past year every concert, lecture and movie screening I’ve attended has been online. It has to stop.
I’ve decided to make Wednesdays zero screen days. I’ll check my emails and the news headlines after breakfast, lunch and dinner and that’s all. It shouldn’t be hard. Thirty years ago I didn’t own a single screen. I know I’ll be able to fill the hours quite happily. I have books and sewing to occupy me, music to listen to, places to walk. The problem will be the dozens of little questions that arise during a typical day and are easily answered by Googling. This morning it was the gestation period in grey seals (11 months, if you’re interested) and, evidencing the flea-like behaviour of my mind, the opening line of Kipling’s poem, The Smuggler’s Song (If you wake at midnight, and hear a horse’s feet). A day without Google will be an exercise in self-control and my eyes may thank me for it.
A reader asks, has independent publishing worked out for me financially? The short answer is no. My Dr Dan books have earned me a little and a little is better than nothing,, but there is more to it than that. The principal benefit has been to my sanity. Being cut adrift by a publisher and unable to find a new publishing home, particularly after a long career, is a colossal blow to a writer’s confidence. We can be a neurotic bunch at the best of times. Self-publishing was a weapon of revenge, my way of saying, ‘Look, you blinkered Big House fools, I have readers who are loyal to me because they enjoy my books. Not my fault if my readership didn’t grow wider over the years. That was your job.’
So, if by chance you’re a writer and thinking of self-publishing, I’d say sure, go for it. Do it for the satisfaction. Just hold off on ordering that new car.