Posted tagged ‘Computers’

Why People Hate Computers – Let Me Count The Ways

September 28, 2009

I have just spent the last few hours trying to download and/or convert illustrations of a cheerful  pantoum to post in order to compensate for the somewhat grim pantoum I posted a couple of days ago.   (See e.g. “Pantoums – Hard Hard Hard – Overheard on the Esplanade”).

This has led me to an entirely new subject matter.

Why do people hate computers so much?  (Given all the marvelous things they do for us.)

Here’s my guess:

1.  Because they are too expensive to throw out the window.

2.  Because they are too heavy to throw out the window.  (Anyone they hit, if surviving, will undoubtedly sue you, and may also steal your passwords.)

3.  Because if you complain about them, you will sound both decrepit and curmudgeonly.  Anyone overhearing will say, in a calm, slightly amused voice, ‘why don’t you let me try?’ and will try to sit in your computer chair and take over your keyboard, all the while ignoring the curmudgeonly gritting of your (probably soon to be false) teeth.

4.  Because they lure you on with the possibility that whatever you are trying really might work this time if only you are patient and wait the ever increasing and decreasing and increasing  number of seconds of the download period.  Then, just as you get to what looks like almost the end of the download, they freeze again.

5.  Because there is no convenient place to hit your computer, and if you do, you’ll probably hurt your typing fingers.

6.  Because your eyes are burning, but you just can’t stop looking at the screen.

7.  Because you know that any email you may get at 1:02  a.m. is probably spam, but you can’t resist checking.  Like Mallory before Everest, you check your email (in both accounts) because it’s there, or at least, it may be there.

8.  Because you just checked your email and there was only spam.  And you just checked your other email and there wasn’t even spam.

9.  Because it really should have worked by now.  Under all the age-old and new age laws of despair and giving up and great things happening when you finally do surrender, and happy endings too, it really should have worked.   (Don’t computers read literature?  Self-help books?  Self-help E-books?)

10.  Because your whole life’s work is held hostage.  (By the way, what happened to your earlier life’s work on that old machine that died suddenly five years ago?)

If you would rather read books than e-books, and books with pictures at that, check out 1 Mississippi at link above.

P.S. sorry about the illustrated pantoum.  My computer and I will figure it out someday.

Writer’s Block (How To Overcome It) – A Series

July 29, 2009

Okay, I’ll stop.  No more writing about Robert Pattinson.  (For now anyway.)   Let’s turn to writing itself.  Writing and writer’s block.

First admission:  What I know about is getting something down on paper, or, if you prefer the computer screen.  So this post is not about writing for commercial success.  Though I’d like to know more about that, this is simply about writing.

Second admission:  I rarely personally suffer from writer’s block.  I suffer from writer’s foot-in-mouth disease, writer’s tinnitus (an ailment whose symptoms are manifest by a ringing in the reader’s ears), and increasingly both writer’s dementia (meaning that I write about crazy subjects like Robert Pattinson), and writer’s senility, meaning that I frequently simply mistype or live out words (like “live” instead of “leave”).

But I somehow avoid writer’s block.  I like to think that this is because of my lifelong attempt to follow the rules set down here.  I hope they will be useful to you too.

Before putting down a couple of these rules, I also want to give credit to Natalie Goldberg, author of  the wonderful Writing Down the Bones, who has been an inspiration for many years and founded many of these techniques (or versions of them).

Rule Number One:  Don’t Care.

Don’t care so much. Tell yourself from the start that your writing will be stupid, the story will be boring, the paper will be ridiculous.  Don’t even care if all you can write is, “I have nothing to say, I’m an idiot.”  So what?  There are many idiots in the world.   Don’t worry about it.  Just make yourself sit down and start.

If you’re having trouble not caring (and trouble starting), a pen and paper may be better helpmates than a computer.  There’s a flow of hand and pen which can produce a genuinely pleasant sensation, like swallowing a cool drink.  More importantly, most people have a fairly hard time reading their own handwriting (a definite assist on a first draft.)  The computer, in contrast, flashes extremely legible words back at you as you go.  It’s worse than a mirror; it can make you cringe before you even complete your image.

The computer can also be hard for the resistant because it allows for such easy escape.   Most composition books have no internet connection.

If you can’t write smoothly by hand, and you must write on the computer, and you get paralyzed there, then train your eyes to look away.   Stare into space, a wall.  Only check the screen often enough to make sure you haven’t gotten onto the wrong keys.  Frankly, even a few sentences of gobbledygook may be better than hours of paralysis.   (Remember this is only for those with writer’s block–if you don’t have it, look at the screen!)

If you are lucky enough to feel comfortable with pen in hand, go for one that can gather momentum—a roller, a fine-tipped felt, a fountain pen.   Cheap ballpoints can be as bad as rubber soles on concrete, sticking and tripping you up.

Once you get started, don’t stop to re-read until you reach a clear breaking point, perhaps set by a timer in advance.  Don’t cross out, don’t correct.  Don’t care.

(Not until the second draft anyway.)

Rule Number Two:  Care.

Care.  Think that your work is worth doing, think that you are worth the doing of it.

If you have an idea, care enough to stop whatever else you are doing and sit there with your pen and paper or your fingers and keyboard and write it down.  Care enough to write when you are walking, eating, on the train.  (Care enough to be impolite if you must.  Tell your kids to turn off the music or t.v.   Shut the door.)

If you don’t have an idea, care enough to turn off the t.v. yourself.  Remove yourself from the internet.  Care enough to stay at home on a beautiful day or even a work day or even a Saturday night if you are working or feel like you might.

If you’re stuck,  take a walk,  let your mind take a walk too.  Care enough to carry a composition book, even though you tell yourself you probably won’t need it, so that if an idea does come, you can write while you walk (being impolite if necessary).

Think:  if not now, when?  As I heard outside a garage in Greenwich Village one Saturday night:  “come on.  Life’s too short to enjoy it.”

To be continued.

PS:  Check out 1 Mississippi on Amazon, counting book with numbers, elephants and steamboats.