From around the end of last year to recently, I was feeling creatively stunted. And I put the blame squarely on a Dell PC laptop that I share with my husband.
We were fine as a one computer household for years, as neither of us were especially techie. And of all the things we needed to spend money on, especially in our earlier, financially-leaner years together, technology wasn’t our biggest priority.
But lately we’ve amped up our personal and professional projects, and both of us wanted more time on the home PC. I grew resentful that I’d have to remind him to give me my turn to work on the laptop at home. And once there, if I jumped up for a quick break, I’d often return to see he’d claimed my seat, “just to check something really quick.”
When I work, I like taking frequent short breaks to clear my mind and come back with clarity. Hard to do that with someone jumping in your seat.
We tried out a shared schedule for the laptop. Great in theory, but in practice, I didn’t like committing to the same specific time every night to work on my projects. And during my scheduled time, I’d be aware of my husband roaming around the apartment, and then (because I’m very sensitive to everyone else’s feelings, regardless of whether they’re real or imagined by me) I’d feel guilty that he wasn’t able to get work done on his projects in the evenings.
So I stopped scheduling laptop times. I built up more resentment and annoyance about the situation, and found myself giving up and just coming home from work, playing with our kitties or reading, and not even trying to claim time on the computer.
But worse than the annoyance was the nagging feeling that I was giving up on my creative life. I started to think that in a relationship these days, the need for one’s own technological space is similar to the “room of one’s own” espoused by Virginia Woolf. I think this need applies, of course, to any gender in a partnership, but I feel it especially applies to women, because society conditions many of us to be overly accommodating of our partners and everyone else in the household except ourselves.
I know this social conditioning had a subtle effect on me, because I was prioritizing how my husband would feel not having his time on the computer while I used it, despite him never telling me I couldn’t have my time on it. True, I could’ve tried harder to make a sharing schedule work, but I felt it was time anyway that we each had our own technological space.
So I ordered myself an iPhone 5, and went to Best Buy to pick out my own laptop: a MacBook Air. I justified the impromptu hit to my credit card as these would be investments in my creative development. With my new shiny gadgets, nothing would stop me from creating now!
Now I was set. I finally had my technological “room of one’s own.” And then some time passed.
A couple of months went by in which I hardly did any personal projects. I mostly caught moments on the shared laptop when I really needed to, while my own new laptop sat unused on my little desk in my bedroom, a shiny silver gem closed in by ever increasing piles of random stuff.
My amazing new friend, the iPhone 5, flashed reminders: “WRITE” popped up on my screen at least twice a day. After about two months, I turned the reminders off.
It dawned on me that it wasn’t the lack of access to my own technology that was preventing me from being creative. It was me all along. I was forced to take a good, honest look at myself and my own inner resistances that were keeping me in a creative rut.
A cleaner takeaway from this situation would be that every couple does truly need their own technological space (to the best of their ability financially, of course). But my actual lesson in this was that the biggest barriers are self-created.
For me, though having my own technological resources at hand is reassuring, these gadgets are not what give me the space to work and create. I owe it to myself to prioritize my creative life, with or without shiny new gadgets. (Although the gadgets do make it easier, when you actually use them, that is!)
Do you mind sharing technology in a relationship? And should I consider returning my MacBook? If nothing else it’s nice and shiny, it really does brighten up the room. It helps me catch up on this season of Mad Men, too.