The many uses of freedom


Listening to Zadie Smith on the radio the last week I discovered the existence of an app called Freedom, which enables one to disconnect from the internet for a set period, say, two hours, and to write, without (in my case) trundling down, and then up, two flights of stairs to disconnect the modem or router, thereby pissing off anyone else in the house who wants to use the internet.

But how interesting that the app Freedom should be so called, when the internet prides itself on, and became the phenomenon that it is, by providing the ‘freedom’ to travel in cyberpace, that is, the freedom to access, within a split second, information on a scale and of a variety never before imaginable.

How interesting that now ‘freedom’ can also be sold, for ten dollars, as the ability to evade that other, all-engrossing, all-pervasive freedom, the one that takes away our own integral freedom to sit in solitude and write.

But it works. Simply knowing that I cannot access the internet on my laptop paradoxically saves me from having to wonder whether or not to consult it; saves me, in those lacunae of imaginative activity, from checking to see whether anyone has sent me a crucial email – one that clearly cannot wait 120 minutes to answer (120 minutes is my preferred setting: any longer and I might be tempted to dawdle, any less and I won’t get enough done. I have also calculated that when I am focused, I can manage just over 1000 words in two hours, and that is enough for first-draft fiction-writing. Much more and I am in danger of overstretching my resources and will have less in the tank for the next day).

So, thanks for the tip, Zadie. It really works. Of course, I could just throw out the computer, and write with pen and paper. But I fear it’s too late for that. So utterly have I been enslaved by writing directly onto a keyboard that it is only with difficulty that I can read my own handwriting.






3 Comments on “The many uses of freedom

  1. Thank you for the tip! I have been trying unsuccessfully to stop myself from checking emails when I’m writing, but, like cigarettes in the past, checking my emails is linked to full stops, commas and threatens to attach itself one of these days to the use of recurrent words or even vowels.


  2. It is a paradoxical world in which we live. One of my students at the University of Melbourne is doing a design project investigating the blurring of private / public boundaries that has occurred since the advent of digital technology: Facebook / Twitter etc. in the privacy of your bedroom, iTunes / iPhone apps in the public vastness of a park.


    • Thanks Warwick. Yesterday I switched on Freedom for 90 minutes so I could mark MA portfolios without distracting myself. Inevitably – this was bound to happen one day – I forgot I had switched on ‘Freedom’ and wasted half an hour testing the modem, the router, checking analytics, re-starting the computer, before remembering that I had I forgotten I was ‘Free.’


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