This was meant to be a full-on rant.

F@#$%&n iPad. Great accessory when packed in its angled-from-the-right-shoulder-to-left-hip-strap lurex case. OK for updating Facebook statuses – but go to share a really cool something and just forget it. Great for checking emails but with my new mobile modem and account, I’ll be buggered if Bigpond can help me ‘send’ emails (three hour-long phone calls later, how hard can it be, really Telstra, for both iPhone and iPad to send emails from my new account?). Wonderful that I finally found and downloaded Docs ToGo, a skeletal version of the hard working Microsoft Word program I use so much on my laptop. A bummer when Docs ToGo won’t sync with Dropbox or, worse, Docs ToGo clenches its teeth and won’t let me in. Another lost connection.

Then there’s WordPress on iPad.  A promise of quick edits and uploads is fine in theory, but when my open site keeps crashing and I’m losing the same post over again, arrrggghhh. Back to the old laptop or Mac at the library.

I’m not alone in my thinking here. A writer friend, Kate Rizzetti updated her Facebook status on 21 August 2012: ‘iPad’s are crap for blogging. Crap I say. So – exactly what is the point of them?’

‘Toys,’ wrote one of Kate Rizzetti friends.

‘Consuming,’ Meanland’s John Weldon wrote in 2011: email, twitter, books, media and games. But sophisticated content? Bah. ‘I have tried valiantly for months to find a way to use my iPad in the creation of content,’ Weldon wrote, ‘but I can’t. Sure, if I bought a keyboard for it I’d be able to word process, but I still couldn’t use any Adobe programs.’

Complaints? I can add more. Why can’t I upload Flash – because I am yet to migrate to iOS 5? Aren’t there reported cases of loss of material with this migration? Should I remain cautious here? Am I willing to spend 24 hours on the changeover, only to upload everything again after the crash?

‘What?’ I hear you say: ‘you’re still in pre-iOS 5 when iOS6is about to be released – and you’re writing on the digital age? Who are you?’

Look. I never proposed to be a digital age guru. Just a stay-at-home mum who uses podcasts, social media, apps and webcrawling to create a more intellectual environment for herself and her children. Life has changed for me in the past year. My youngest one is in his first year at school. I’m busy freelancing, travelling lots to get my boys to and from school, squeezing every hour of working life in at the library between 10 am when it opens and 3.15 pm when the school run starts.

So last Tuesday, I was twenty minutes into my daily routine, which meant I was in my portable office (aka, ‘car’), takeaway coffee in one hand, iPhone in the other, when an email needed proper attention. My left hand blindly pushed over to the passenger seat, into the luggage bag that doubles as my now portable desk/accessory carrier but instead of finding a 9.5 inch high screen within a thick case (bought so that if my boys dropped the thing, the packaging would be thick enough and the glass wouldn’t break), it found a space.

Nulla. Niente. Nada.

That first hour after drop off includes phone calls, Twitter-checking, Facebook, news feeds, Linkedin and most importantly, email. This is when I want instant access, quick looks and fast editing. Note taking, daily task lists etc. Not the wait of a slow start up. The laptop just wouldn’t cut it – I needed my iPad.

The iPhone was no good to me either. What could I see, on that teeny screen, of the fullness of intricate email questions and of complicated to dos? Where was the space for ideas to form?

I had left the iPad home that morning because I had deemed it not useful in the scheme of things. But, as they say, you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. While the laptop is where I like to get down and dirty with the writing of blogs, press releases, wordpress or social media marketing for myself and clients, iPad is the scratchpad where I play with burgeoning ideas and thoughts. It is the starter-writer, if you like. Not too flimsy and with room for development. It’s where I can keep things light, and with a soft touch, swiftly draw together and create meaning out of that which can be obtuse on a computer. A little bigger in dimension than a print book, the iPad is a holder of ideas and a place to create more without fuss. Its absence of comprehensive features means it doesn’t overcomplicate things, which, I was beginning to appreciate could actually be a good thing.

Sometimes, when I switch from my iPhone to iPad, I think, there you go. It’s just a bigger iPhone without the phone. Then my hand stretches out and I can see things more clearly.

The problem with the iPad is that it’s a middle child, an inbetweener, only classified/identified in relation to and older, bigger and more powerful computer or a younger, cuter and more sociable iPhone/smartphone. The middle child has his or her place but most of the time we don’t understand what that is.

Yet, it’s outside of my daytime routine when I miss the iPad most. When I wake after four hours sleep and I don’t want to hear a computer start up. I just want to stay in bed with some light to see and a place to rest my words. That’s when the middle child does her best work. Enough dark, quiet and space allows the spill of what would otherwise remain unsaid. Which is why, as much as the iPad frustrates me with its primitive ways, it is an electronic device I have trouble calling a device. It is the one I connect to. The one I adore.


Diane Simonelli

Diane Simonelli has worked in marketing, publishing, PR and on websites in Melbourne and London. Her short stories have won awards including the Boroondarah Literary Prize and her second novel received an Australian Arts Council grant. A mother of two young boys, she delights in new forms of media and treasures classic print.

Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places.

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  1. You are at Overland, Stephen, but this is the Meanland project and I’m writing as an emerging writer about my experience of the digital age. Your piece Why I Write blew me away.

    If you could tell me what needs to change for this piece to be better placed, that’d be so cool. Maybe what’s above is still in its first draft? Maybe I didn’t recognize this or didn’t delve deep enough into that which needs to be said and hasn’t been said. See my other pieces for Meanland under Digital Age on my blog. What do you think?

  2. Jacinda, I did hold back in this piece. Things I didn’t want to say because of crap I’m going through that I wasn’t sure I should divulge. Maybe that’s what Stephen is responding to?

    1. Hi Diane
      happy to have the discussion about my response. If Jack considers it unconstructive that’s fine, but I think it could be constructive in a number of ways. It’s not meant to be personally hurtful, and anyone who has read or edited my posts wouldn’t believe for more than a nano second that I’d do such a thing. So maybe a better response, given that fairly robust context could be, what does this gnomic statement mean?
      I’m really interested in the fact that you held back when writing. The post reads like the post you were expected to write rather than the one you wanted to write. That’s never a good look. As an ’emerging writer’ (weird term) myself, I figure I’ve got nothing to lose, cos I’m a nobody anyway. So I always reckon go for broke. Whether people like it or not I don’t care. Overland will give you plenty of latitude to say what you want in what style you want (except in the comments thread apparently) and will be supportive, so why not really go for it. I have to say that the iPad piece reads like something that was written under duress kind of like’ write this Meanland piece for us, and for god’s sake be literary and stuff.’
      ‘Emerging writers’ get short shrift in all sorts of ways. Politically it’s hard to get out of the rut of writing in the way that the Emerged would like you to write. The problem is also that the Emerged are often the editors and publishers and policers of writing.
      And if you are going through stuff, why not put it on the writing? Who cares if no-one likes it? Writers are always fixated on audiences, never on listeners. And you only need one listener anyway. I’d much rather hear about the stuff you are going through, and an iPad, a weird toxic toy might be the perfect image or centre of gravity.
      I’m happy to talk more off list if you want to talk this through more. You would have my email.

  3. This piece is refreshingly honest. And accessible. The way people speak about this device you’d think you were a social outcast without one. In a world ruled by digital content, of online contribution and debate, where its no longer ‘cool’ to consume information in a paper format, iPad can do no wrong. Personally I think it’s capacities are vastly over-rated. No one speaks of it’s limitations. They are the elephant in the digital room, the emporer’s invisible clothes, the wolf under the sheep’s skin.
    Random House tweeted today ‘Parents & children still overwhelmingly prefer to read print books together’ (@randomhouseau). Holding an iPad with a 4yo in bed to read a story just doesn’t induce the same cosy pleasure as a picture book with wide, glossy pages.
    Yet, the damned thing is so addictive in it’s immediacy, we can’t help but return to it over and again.

  4. I’m so glad for your response, SW. It’s what I expected given the honesty and depth with which you write your pieces. It’s difficult for me to respond in full right now. School pick up means I have two sugared up boys (wired on red slushies) in the car.

    You hold back in Why I Write, but it is tantalising in your piece and only after you have given your reader so much. I would love to talk more about this offline as my situation is a bit more complicated than I have outlined and I would like to know how you would deal with it in your writing.

  5. No worries Diane. Always happy to talk about writing. I’ll wait to hear from you.
    With Why I Write, I deliberately held back on saying exactly why, because the piece itself is the ‘why’ and also because the real reason I wrote it, torture on the rack wouldn’t drag out of me.

  6. Ta Kate!

    This piece is accessible and to some degree, honest. It’s just that it could have done more and it was a bit surface. There’s so much I glossed over and that’s not what Overland’s about.

    Ah the addictive, glossy iPad. Perhaps it induces writing that, like it, is shiny rather than cosy. Maybe I should try writing my next piece long hand!

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