Sunday, September 25, 2005

Time and Tools - Response to Francine

Francine - began this as a comment in your blog's "Time and Attention Management" section but it turned into a tome so I've decided to blog it here...('cause then I can play with the HTML)


Read this entry. Interestingly enough, as a writer, I am a proponent of various ritualistic tools - MUST be pencil and MUST be smooth (I use the Mirado pencils - they are awesome). I bought paper in the States years ago - tons of it - looseleaf with wide spaces (not the margin, the spaces themselves) - my handwriting is not the best, and especially when I'm in creativity mode, I fly across the page. So wide-spaced paper is another tool I've relied upon, as well as a good (preferably old-fashioned wood-and-metal) clipboard.

With the advent of computers in my lifestyle (and I DO mean life*style*) that changed. I found it much easier to sit down at the computer and let my fingers fly across the keyboard to create - with greater speed ('cause I'm a really quick typist) and accuracy and legibility (important!!) - the myriad ideas plummeting through my mind. I found myself creating short stories that were not only easily written (both in a physical and creative manner) but easily tweaked (I'm an admitted tweakaholic - have already tweaked this comment *mumble mumble* times) as well. It opened up the world to me. But was still not as portable as the writing.

Then, 2 years ago, as a gift to myself using part of an inheritance my mom left me, I bought my first laptop. WOW...good morning world! I had just become proficient at digital graphics as well, and I had been doing HTML and web design for a couple of years but this? This became my home-away-from-home. The laptop became my studio, my desk, my clipboard, my journal, my coffee shop, my arcade, my jigsaw puzzle table, my newspaper, my TV (with CNN online!) my window on the world, my mall, and my stereo (Harmon Kardon speakers, bay-bee! *g*).. .but then, 18 months after the new revolution...the display on my new toy flickered...and died...and the store put it in for service but - because I was in Learning Theories and needed the computer where all my work was stored - let me keep the machine at home. Hooked it to an external monitor and worked for 60 days from my kitchen table. So, I was no longer mobile..but I was still connected. It was suddenly a reversal of convenience even as it WAS convenience defined...

60 days later, the extended warranty I'd bought from the store allowed me a new computer. After bargaining with them (okay, ARGUING my point), they conceded to giving me the machine I own now - a real state-of-the-art machine. It is a laptop but more of a portable desktop (you've seen it - it's a monster *g*) - 17" screen, 256 MB Radeon 9600 dedicated graphics, the works...and I was back to being mobile, wireless, and happier than ever.


There is a book I like to refer to, called "The Writer's Book of Days" contains writing exercises - block-busters, boosters, whatever one wishes to call them - one for every day of the year. Along with the book's offerings, the exercises have kept me writing - even if it is forced at times - to the point of maintaining creativity in times of perhaps lesser inspiration. The book says, at its beginning, and I quote portions of it:

"Writing practice is best done by hand"*

And then - with the heading: Why Write By Hand

"Ah, what technology has brought us! First the typewriter, then the word processor, now the computer, even the voice-recognition computer. Why write by hand when there's all this technology, the nanosecond response to the very flick of the finger, the ability to alter sentences, relocate paragraphs, erase, or rearrange whole chapters with macro magic. And how our fingers fly. At last we can almost keep up with our thoughts. With all this, why still write by hand?

Legions of writers still do, and for their own good reasons. For example: feminist scholar and writer bell hooks said there's something about handwriting that slows the idea process. When working on the computer, she said "you don't have those moments of pause that you need." Writer and monologist Spalding Gray (my note: the late Mr. Gray) believes writing by hand is the closest thing he can get to his breath, and novelist Anne Tyler said the muscular movement of putting down script on the paper gets her imagination back in the track where it was. Master horror writer Clive Barker said that for him, handwriting is "the most direct association I can make between what's going on in my mind's eye and what's going to appear on the page."*

She goes onto give more reasons, including:

- Writing is a physical act; you should do it with your body
- Writing muscles include the hand and the heart.
- Writing by hand is sensual; it allows you to feel the movement of pen against paper.
- You can feel your heart beat when you write by hand; sometimes you can feel your pulse in your fingers.
- You are in control when you write by hand (no low battery or malfunction or save command or crash can interrupt you)
**my note: Windows XP has made even crashes palatable with its recovery feature in Word**
- You can write anywhere when you write by hand.*

She encourages writing by hand - even if only for a month of practices to try it out, especially if one is accustomed to (and most at home at) the computer for writing. When I took this book off my shelf (after a couple of years of its sitting there, cover uncracked), I went back to writing by hand. It was awesome - it felt right, it WAS portable (however, it was pre-laptop days) and it was primal. Then I began to share my writings with select people in my life - and one of these being an (*cringes at the term*) online friend - and it was necessary for me to digitize my writing. At the same time as doing the writing exercises, I was continuing to write creatively, on the computer. So I went right back to doing it that way.

Judy Reeves mentions writing in terms of time management. She likens writing to making an appointment with one's writer-self and managing that time. Not canceling the appointment. Perhaps changing the time from day to day, but keeping it as a routine. Writing in one's calendar the amount of time one will devote per day. 10 minutes one day. 2 hours another. Managing that time, sticking to it, making it priority and following through.

Took this book away with me on Labor Day weekend, and began to re-read it, with every intention of revisiting its pages of writing prompts. But the time management, the commitment aspect and the habit-forming element of writing spoke loudest to me.

Then, when Leona brought up her concerns, and we talked in class about manufacturing a blog for class struck me that this is precisely what the assignment can lead to. Sitting down grudgingly at an appointment (who likes the dentist's chair?) and feeling better once one is done...and then, that leading to more and more good habits (yes I floss more diligently before and after an appointment *lil grins*)...blogging has become that for me. I find myself - especially these last few days - turning to my bookmarked blog and adding to it. I will - hopefully - get more introspective, more insightful and more inspired as it goes along. But I have to say - I can see this blog reaching far beyond the final date of is feeling good and is inspiring me to do more - creatively, academically, personally - in so many ways.

I can understand your reasoning in blogging so that you wouldn't have to lug around a laptop to keep your notes and research together. I will - I know - eventually do the same. order to blog...I need the laptop because there are times I am somewhere with it (school lounge, or away on holiday) and open it up and start writing or doing graphics. In fact, it has become a happy burden to bear for's my all-in-one. It's like I joke with my (non-computer/online-oriented) husband, "I'm a cheap date. Computer...wireless connection..I'm good to go." For those in my world can empathize, I need not explain. The computer has not only helped me as a tool, it has helped me manage my time more efficiently - in creative, social, and now academic ways - and has helped me to expand my horizons, truly to all parts of the globe.

* Judy Reeves, A Writer's Book of Days, New World Library, California, Copyright 1999


Alejandro Gomez said...

I really enjoyed this post. I`ve also gone through writing and no-writing stages (that`s where I stand today), and have developped much stronger ties to my menuscripts than to my backup files.
I would only suggest that you switch channels fromm CNN. Check BBC, CBC or any other. You'll see how different the world is from any other station!

Francine said...

Dear Lissa,
I'm sorry I did not respond sooner. I guess in the swing of things you get caught up with trying to be efficient (read action oriented) and sometimes don't slow down to read the thought out comments you get. I mean really read, not speed read!

Beautiful Lissa, it brought back memories of my summer days where this year Charlevoix, the windy shores of the St-Lawrence and the collected works of new Canadian authors (Book called Notebooks---not home can't give you the exact reference) accompanied my musings about writing. Writing was the subject I chose to explore this summer. Passionately interested in understanding the muse, the politics of the writing world, the inspirational tools, techniques, habits, even tics and superstitions of writers who like you explain so well, are diverse and very personal. I have a love/hate relationship to word processors, they both constrain and organize, they both reflect my need for structure, but constrain my creativity and need to write in the margins, annotate my thoughts and doodle to make a point or support an esthetic desire for colorful lines and shapes.

From the time I was 12, I wrote journals, first to get to know the world around me, then to get to know myself. Eventually as I progressed I realized that I could problem solve on paper better than with any other tool. It slowed the process down. My tools were important: a collection of fountain pens, inks of many colors, but a notebook of cheap lined paper (cahier brouillon). I collected beautiful paper, hand made paper but chose to write on and in something that was more amenable to scratching out, correcting, rewriting and seeing the process with all of its textures.

Writing is now research related, and my notebooks are that, musings about how we know the world through theory and various academic disciplines.

Thank you Lissa for giving me the opportunity to expose this more poetic and artistic side of me that tends to get buried under formalized ways of doing within this academic environment. I struggle to keep it alive, but it is sometimes flooded by in the influx of different voices that seem to pull in another direction. Polyvalence they say in French is the nature of the writing game when you straddle so many ‘genres’ of writing, and territories of text.