Roz Morris – Not a phone person

Roz Morris LE P&W April 2019

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Not a phone person by Roz Morris

Roz Morris is a bestselling ghostwriter turned contemporary novelist and author mentor. She has two published novels (My Memories of a Future Life and Lifeform Three, which was longlisted for the World Fantasy Award) and a collection of travel diaries Not Quite Lost: Travels Without A Sense of Direction. Her latest release is a workbook version of her successful writing manual Nail Your Novel. Find out about Roz here Catch her on Facebook  and tweet her as @Roz_Morris  

I don’t have a phone.

Actually I do, but it’s old-fashioned, so friends don’t agree that it’s a phone.

Their kind of phone is a smart slab of glass with internet, photos, and apps with everything. My kind of phone is a handset that does texts and calls and … that’s it. I call it the dimphone. It’s the kind of phone you see in crime dramas, where they’re known disdainfully as ‘burners’.

My choice of phone annoys certain of my friends. But not for practical reasons. They can contact me if necessary.  No, my dimphone seems to rankle for other reasons. For instance, my friend Caroline seems to think it a denial of something, a refusal of progress.

‘For goodness sake,’ she’ll say over coffee, ‘get a phone. You can use Twitter from it.’

But I am on Twitter, I tell her. I use Twitter from my PC, many times a day.

Indeed, I got her started on Twitter in the first place, showed her the sweetest tweeters and the best twetiquette. But right now, sitting in a cafe talking to her, I don’t need to be on Twitter. It will still be there later.

But, she says, scrolling and swiping, you’re missing this and this…

She fears I’m resisting the era of connection, but I’m not. Au contraire, I am extremely in favour of connection. I’m on Facebook and Linked In as well as Twitter. I blog. I use online tools and services. They are the oxygen and blood of my professional life. I upload my work to platforms that reside on servers in far-off continents and time zones. I create files at my desk in my home, and they become real books that people can hold in their hands (or on their phones), anywhere in the world. I certainly appreciate the blessings of connection.

But I don’t have a phone.

If you had a phone, says Caroline, you could carry all this with you.

And there’s the rub. I don’t want to.

Today, walking from the Tube station to begin a freelance shift at a magazine, my head was pleasantly full of the book I’d been reading on my Tube journey. I found I was experiencing the walk as if the author was still with me, describing it. I saw a woman in a navy padded coat. I thought how a coat stays with you a long time. It is a defining garment for a span of months or years. In a photo, you will always know the date by the point in that coat’s life cycle. Perhaps it was in its new smart phase, worn only for trips in the city. Perhaps it was later on, when you didn’t care if it got scuffed by backpacks or snagged by thorns.

The coat observation is trivial, but the moment was not; it was a new way to notice an everyday thing. That’s one of the pleasures of a book, the after-reading period when the writer’s sensibility still colours your mind. If I had a whizzy phone, I’d have started to check in on everything and everybody because I am a person with no self-control. I’d never have had that quiet, idling walk.

cellphoneI don’t dislike our connectedness; not at all. The internet is my world. I owe it my career as an author. Previously, I’d been a ghostwriter, a secret person who wrote blockbusters and was never named. Online, in blogs and other social media, I was able to set forth as myself, to speak without a go-between and in my own words. Online, I have found a wondrous world wide environment of creative people, a place of energetic makers that never sleeps.

Speaking of perpetual motion, that makes me think of a passage from Iain Sinclair’s London Orbital, where he wonders about our attachment to our cars. Why are we so keen on them if they burn money, guzzle petrol, emit fumes? Even madder, he finds people who, given a choice of routes for driving home, opt to take the longer one. They tell him it’s because it allows more time to think, in the quiet, in motion.

And I think this is it. I need the protected quiet time, the time for drifting reverie, the way we all need sleep and dreaming in order to stay sane. If the internet city never slumbers, I’ll make my own night.

I love you all, my online friends, my online worlds where you are all so instantly available, so vibrant, so human, so impulsive, so irreverent, so mischievous, so campaigning, so passionate, so pioneering. I love the serious knowledge I get from you as well. But I also need quiet time, to listen, to hear myself think. Which is why I don’t have that kind of phone.

© Roz Morris