To be fair, Bradbury grew up in a different world than we live in now. He rented a typewriter at UCLA to compose Fahrenheit 451, at the rate of a dime every thirty minutes. He loved libraries, and the feel, scent, and weight of hardcopy books. Libraries were all physical, unlike today, where much knowledge can be accessed online. You’d think a writer, especially one who wrote science fiction, would appreciate such informational access. Bradbury comes across as a curmudgeon instead, though he did have his own website in the last few years of his life. Still, he remained critical of this amazing digital tool, one that can be accessed literally anywhere you can receive a satellite signal. Many writers also consider it a bane, complaining about trying to get work done while posting on Facebook.
As a writer, I’ve found the internet indispensable. Submitting stories via email and website forms is far more economic and faster than snail mail. All of my acceptances have been due to this easy connectivity. I’m just as proud of my first fiction sale as I’m sure Bradbury was of his. I wouldn’t have gotten novels accepted were it not for the internet. It’s not the medium that counts. Sure, I love to walk into a book store, inhale the scent of unread volumes, feel the pages between my fingers, enjoy the weight of a hardcover in my hand. But I don’t read and write to experience those sensations. Those things are ephemeral, really. What matters is your story, your work. With the internet, that work can reach more people than ever before.
Bradbury feared that more screens and more internet meant less reading. For some, this is true, but these people probably didn’t read much to begin with. Then there’s writers who seem more focused on posting self-promoting snippets on Twitter than actually composing a new piece. Or the ones who crow about writing a mere 500 words that day, as if that were an accomplishment, then make twenty posts on Facebook they’ll forget about in a week. I understand some people may only have time to wrench out 500 words from their brain that day. Part of being a successful writer is knowing how to manage one’s time. To make the most of the all-too short period when your mind in wrapped in your fiction. Like anything else, you’ll do it if you really want to.
Logging out of Facebook or other sites and services is a no-brainer when you’re writing, but one needn’t become a short-term Luddite and turn off every device in the house. For me, the internet and my devices augment my writing experience. Typically, when I write, I have research books opened on the counter, maps spread out, Wikipedia up on the web browser, a Dictionary.com app open on my phone, and atmospheric music playing from the computer. Oftentimes I’ll still grab my hardcopy of the Oxford Thesaurus. And if I’m writing anything about the Late Bronze Age, you bet your ass my books by Nancy K. Sandars and Manuel Robbins are there on my desk. All of this while I type away at the manuscript. Desperate to fill that blank page: the true enemy of the writer, not technology.
This may not work for everyone. The addiction to Facebook can be great, and receiving constant notifications or texts are annoying when you’re in the middle of writing one hell of a sex scene. It’s best to use what you need, and tune out the rest. Do I require all of these tools to write? Of course not. Sometimes, late at night, I write in silence, without any device at my disposal. Other times, I compose a few hundred words on my phone or tablet while away from my comfortable writing lair. I can then upload that to a cloud drive, email it, or share it with fellow writers via social media. Kinda hard to do that with a traditional notepad and pen. Plus, ape scrawls are more legible than my handwriting. But each to their own.
So, yeah, Ray Bradbury was wrong—but only regarding those of us who accept what the 21st century has to offer. Many authors still use a typewriter, write drafts in notebooks, refuse to buy ebooks. That’s their prerogative. You’ll never hear me criticize them. Ray Bradbury was wrong to criticize people like me, who are using these tools to benefit my creations, not clog my mind with bullshit. People were cramming their heads with nonsense before the internet, even before television, so that’s won’t cease anytime soon. That’s what is great about being an author right now. There’s more choices, more markets, more tools. More readers, believe it or not. Shun them at your own risk.