Jonathan Franzen: “The place of stillness”

“You have to protect your writing time. You have to protect it to the death.” – William Goldman

One nice thing about doctor’s waiting rooms is the opportunity to catch up on magazine reading.

Today, I was glad to find hidden behind issues of Highlights and Parenting the recent issue of Time with Jonathan Franzen on the cover. My aging eyes even cooperated well enough for me to get through the entire article without my reading glasses, which I’d left at home. A good day!

The article by Lev Grossman is worth reading for anyone who loves to write or read, especially for anyone on a personal quest to create a new, more balanced relationship with modern technology and social media:

Franzen works in a rented office that he has stripped of all distractions. He uses a heavy, obsolete Dell laptop from which he has scoured any trace of hearts and solitaire, down to the level of the operating system. Because Franzen believes you can’t write serious fiction on a computer that’s connected to the Internet, he not only removed the Dell’s wireless card but also permanently blocked its Ethernet port. “What you have to do,” he explains, “is you plug in an Ethernet cable with superglue, and then you saw off the little head of it.”

Jonathan Franzen
“Jonathan Franzen 2011 Shankbone” by David Shankbone – Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

I especially love Franzen’s description of “the place of stillness” required for both writing and reading:

Reading, in its quietness and sustained concentration, is the opposite of busyness. “We are so distracted by and engulfed by the technologies we’ve created, and by the constant barrage of so-called information that comes our way, that more than ever to immerse yourself in an involving book seems socially useful,” Franzen says. “The place of stillness that you have to go to to write, but also to read seriously, is the point where you can actually make responsible decisions, where you can actually engage productively with an otherwise scary and unmanageable world.”

Finding that place of stillness is not always easy in today’s world. Not easy, but also not impossible.

3 thoughts on “Jonathan Franzen: “The place of stillness”

  1. I’m printing the article right now. I’ll admit it’s hard to escape the computer. I seem to always be working with a computer screen lately. But, I’ve always at least took the five to ten minutes before class to read, draw, write, or just daydream. I hope to extent this ‘stillness’ time into my life at home. I’ll try starting by speading less time online on the weekends 🙂 .

  2. I was also at the doctor’s office today for three hours and was finally able to start Mockingjay! It was a very good day. I don’ t think I could ever disable my internet, but I get his point. I like your idea better of simply abstaining from the internet during writing time–it requires a little more discipline but works fine for me. 🙂

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