Monday, April 27, 2015

Tired of Technology: Things I Would (and Would NOT) Miss About Our Age of Wonders

P.S. [PRE-Script] I think I get the prize for longest Rockville 8 blog post title. Just sayin'.

So, the other day, I'm sitting down to write. I've got twenty minutes, and I am determined to get words on the page. This time I'm not going to get distracted by Facebook or email or the weather or looking up how to get squirrels out of the attic. I. Am. Going. To. WRITE.

And then my computer tells me this: Installing update 1 of 15. Do not power down or unplug your machine.

Noooooo! Even as I shake my fist and bellow to the heavens, I can't help but notice that the computer didn't say anything about not drop-kicking it into the bathtub. I give this option serious consideration, and then decide that it wouldn't be worth the broken toe that would inevitably result. I hang my head in defeat, and slink out of the room.

At times like these, I seriously feel like I'm done with technology. Like, I don't want to use anything more advanced than a hand-crank pencil sharpener and a - a - well, a pencil. In that noble (if impractical) spirit, here are three things I would NOT miss about technology:

1) Automatic Updates. After my recent fiasco, of course this is at the top of the list. And yes, I know that I can switch the options on my computer so it doesn't automatically update. But (heavy sigh) sadly enough, I never remember that until I get the dreaded message.

2) Advertisements. Of course, ever since Humankind developed communication, we've been trying to sell stuff to each other. As soon as Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, a hundred telemarketers set up shop. But seriously, the overkill of distracting ads calling attention to life's imperfections? "Pill to make you happy!" "Face cream to make you look younger!" "Magical elixir to melt the pounds away!" Yeah, thanks but no thanks, guys. I would not miss that!

3) IT Guys. In this day and age, we couldn't live without them, and I have certainly had my life saved by an assortment of IT personnel over the years. Having said that, I definitely would not miss: the eyeroll ("You clicked what?") , the shudder/sigh ("Ugh."), and the general feeling that I should be sitting in a corner with a dunce cap on instead of working at a computer (which, let's face it, sometimes I should!).

And yet...

And yet, we do live in an age of wonders. Regardless of how frustrating technology may sometimes be, it is a (nearly) indispensable part of modern life. Here are the three things I WOULD miss about technology:

1) Connectivity. Although I sometimes (read: "often") get behind on emails and social media, I love being connected to my family and friends. In the space of a minute, I can easily connect with most of the people that I love. And that's a very good thing!

2) Text messages. This is kind of a corollary of number one. I love the practicality and just plain fun of text messaging with my family. Stuff like coordinating grocery runs, making dinner plans, sharing good news. And during the day, my sister and I often text each other lines from our favorite shows (e.g. "Pink wine makes me slutty." - New Girl. "Lone wolves need other wolves." - Supernatural.) I would soooo miss that!

3) Digital Books and Music. I have a deep and abiding love of paper books. There is nothing to compare with the tactile experience of reading a book printed on paper. But I am addicted to the convenience of digital books. I love, love, love being able to carry around an entire library inside a device that weighs only a few ounces. Oh, and digital music? Come on! I remember carrying a Walkman and two cassette tapes in my purse. Now I have my whole music collection in my phone. In my phone, people! That kind of technology is life-enriching and just plain fun!

So, after careful consideration, I guess the pros of technology outweigh the cons. And although I may moan and complain, I can't deny that I enjoy the fun and convenience of this marvelous age in which we live.

Okay, technology, you win this round. But I'm keeping my eye on you. Don't try any funny stuff!

Sunday, April 12, 2015


I’m co-chairing the big annual retreat for my local chapter of RWA this year, and it’s happening next weekend, whether we’re ready or not. Although, just to be clear here, right at this moment, there are no unanswered emails in my inbox so as I write this we AREcurrentlyready.

So, if you’re registered for the retreat, Don’t panic!

As the Geoffrey Rush character in Shakespeare in Love says, when they ask him how it’s all going to work out: “The natural condition is one of insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster.”

“So what do we do?”

“Nothing,” he says. “Strangely enough it all turns out well.


“I don’t know. It’s a mystery!”

Because of all this, though, the word “retreat” in all its various forms has been much on my mind. And I’ve decided to use it.

There’s the zen form of retreat:

But right now, when I look at that lovely istockphoto image, I know deep in my heart that those rocks do not represent zen or a retreat into serenity. Those rocks are fricking weapons… and not for nothing, but I'm pretty sure that says something.

Then there’s the battle form of retreat:

Ah! Now we’re getting closer…

I’ve been living my life for the past few months, telling myself, “After the retreat, things will get back to normal.”

Before the retreat duties picked up, it was, “After the holidays, things will get back to normal.”

Before that, it was, “After the summer, things will get back to normal.”

And when I said “normal” what I meant was “And I will get back to writing.”

I’ve come to understand that will never happen. Life will never be “normal” and I need to write anyway. I need to make writing my normal.

I seem to have been very good at filling my time with writing-related activities. It’s time to start cutting them loose. Start cutting me loose. Because, to paraphrase a famous line, talking about writing is like dancing about architecture…

Time to stop dancing. Time to stop putting “normal” off until after the next big event.

Time to stop. Period.

And my first stop will be to stop blogging with the Rockville 8.

Hopefully they won’t kick me out completely, and if I ever get my zen back and stop wanting to throw rocks, maybe I’ll find my way back to blogging about the writing that I’ll actually be doing. That would be cool.

Right now, I don’t know how that’s going to happen. It’s a mystery!

But I’m hoping it will all turn out well…

Monday, April 6, 2015

Confessions of a Technology Refugee

I have computer burnout. I’m not even talking about writing. Between the day job, receiving endless emails from my daughter’s school to check the website to find some vital piece of information, taking online training classes for a certification I need, and filling out endless forms found on whatever website that keeps my life going, I’ve basically had enough. By the time I actually get to WRITE, which is the one thing I really want to do on the computer, I feel like I can’t sit for another minute in front of a glowing screen.

So, during a trip to Michael’s to get craft supplies for my daughter’s social studies project, I saw it—the answer to my prayers.

The sketch book in the sales bin.

The steampunky cover drew me to it but what I found inside was just what my tired brain needed—blank space and lots of it. Fresh, virgin paper. No visual information staring back at me, nothing to click to distract me from allowing my imagination to run wild.
The Notebook
Notice the papers sticking out.
Even a mystical notebook can't be
everywhere at once

I’ve been writing down my story ideas for my newest WIP and plotting in it ever since. I’ve discovered something about myself during this. I need to hand write during my creative process, at least some of the time. Once I have a clear pathway, then the computer is fine.

Turns out others have actually studied this. In “Digitizing Literacy: Reflections on the Haptics of Writing” by Anne Mangen and Jean-Luc Velay 
(DOI: 10.5772/8710), the authors state, “Typically, handwriting is…a slower process than typewriting. …the visual attention of the writer is strongly concentrated during handwriting; the attentional focus of the writer is dedicated to the tip of the pen, while during typewriting the visual attention is detached from… the process of hitting the keys. Hence, typewriting is divided into two distinct…spaces: the motor space (e.g., the keyboard), and the visual space (e.g., the screen).”

What does this mean to a visual person like me? That I want to savor the creative process and slow it down by writing my ideas in a notebook but when I want to get to work before I forget what I was thinking, I grab my computer. Each has its uses. The added bonus is that shaking things up by going back and forth between the two processes keeps my brain percolating new ideas.

The authors also address my ennui with technology. “Writing has always been dependent on technology; indeed, in a very literal sense, writing is technology, for… without the crayon or the stylus or the laptop, writing simply is not possible. From using clay tablets and animal skins via the medieval manuscript and the ancient papyrus roll, to the mechanization of writing with the printing press and the current digitization, writers have always had to handle physical devices and then [apply] these to some substrate. The outcome of the writing process has always relied on the skillful combination of technical/manual skill and intellectual/aesthetic aptitude.”

So, does this mean that the ancients sometimes threw down their papyrus roll and wished for the good old days of the chisel, hammer and cave wall so that they could get in touch with their creative roots?

What methods get your creative ideas flowing?