Friday, February 18, 2011

Computer Diaspora (Jillian)

Alas, the time is coming soon where I might have to part from my beloved laptop on a temporary basis. Long story short, my laptop – friend and ultimate writing tool – decided it no longer recognized its AC adapter and refused from that point on to charge its battery. There is, of course, no logical explanation for this sudden bout of computer amnesia. I had two different partial diagnoses from two different “geeks”, and, believe me, a new adapter did no good despite their insistence. Hence, the fear that the geeks’ favorite way of solving things – that is, sending said machine off into the great unknown so someone else can attempt repairs and wipe the drive for good measure (grr…) – will have to be implemented.

Forgive the moaning in the above paragraph, but I am sure you can relate. When a writer’s preferred tool of crafting and performing her art is mercilessly taken away, a feeling of hopelessness settles in. Last year, I had the misfortune of falling down marble stairs at work with the same computer. Result? Cracked screen, just like a car windshield, but in retrospect, it could have easily been my skull. It was taken a repair shop where it languished idle for about two and a half weeks. Never mind how expensive that venture was, it was next to impossible to overcome the feeling that my hands had suddenly been cut off, and I could not write. Period. I dread returning to that state of writing paralysis again.

As I consider sending my dear friend away for another necessary respite, I cannot help but think how ludicrous the “writing paralysis” is. Yes, it is almost excruciating to be separated from the thing that has been such a vital instrument in my writing, but… I can write… because essentially writing is not about the computer. My brain works the same. My hands still work. The story is in my head, and not necessarily in its most consummate form on the hard drive, anyway. And, I must remind myself, writing via word processing machine is only a recent trend. After all the likes of the magnificent Mr. Chaucer and Mr. Shakespeare, many before and many, many after, produced manuscripts without use of a laptop, spell-check, online references and dozens of fancy fonts. Quills, hand-made ink, grossly expensive parchment and/or vellum, blotting paper, and candlelight… those were the tools. And what wonderful tools they are!

In fact, only last year (if you recall), Agatha Christie’s writing desk went on sale, no doubt for a pretty sum. I read Lucy Davies’ blog on the Telegraph website, and was intrigued some time ago by an entry devoted to those who collect the palettes of van Gogh, Monet, Manet, Mattise, etc. Anne Frank’s diary is preserved under glass. So is the Magna Carta in its various surviving versions. I wonder sometimes if I ever become noteworthy (ha! If at all, long after my demise!) would they preserve my laptop behind glass? Would it convey the same meaning as Jane Austen’s simple writing table, or would it be just another old computer with a black, dead screen? Hm…

Jane Austen's writing desk, from the Telegraph

I must remind myself that I do have these simple tools, too. Wouldn’t it be such a challenge, such an adventure to continue work on my novel as if nothing ever happened… except the change in medium? If all those others can make use of simple paper and pen, why can’t I? I already do.

So, I am beginning to toy with the idea of writing actual chapters via legal pad. While I have not yet lost the ability to write with a pen and paper, I don’t know if I’d have the patience for it. Another idea… old typewriter? That would definitely be an easier transition. But where might I find one that is both functional and semi-affordable?

A lot of things to think about. My only hope is that any crazy experiment can cause me to grow into a more versatile writer… the kind of person who can write a novel on a train or in a coffee shop, even if all I have is a napkin. After all, that’s what J.K. Rowling did – legal pads, coffee and a cafĂ© after hours.

By Jove! It’s so simple, it just might work!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Strange Questions (Jillian)

One aspect of being a writer is that one is always coming up with strange questions - not necessarily seeking an answer, but enjoying the question in all its fullness. Even the smallest anecdote can open the doors to new worlds.

Today's whimsical question, happened upon this evening as I watched (and heard) a flock of geese fly northwest in the darkening sky:

Are those geese confused about dates, or do they know something we don't about the coming of Spring?


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Flowers in the Snow (Jillian)

We’ve reached the first of February, and much of the United States has woken to find that snow, once again, has covered the world in white. All is bitter, cold and blustery. This is the time of year which sees a great deal of misery compounded, I believe, by a great deal of whinging. One cannot approach this month without harkening back to the humble cadence we know so well…

In the bleak midwinter…

frosty winds made moan,

earth stood hard as iron,

water like a stone;

snow had fallen

snow on snow

snow on snow

in the bleak midwinter

long ago…

(Christina Rossetti)

I am still determined to see the good in Winter, in all the little ways inspiration comes… even through endless snow drifts, the major Thaws that never last long enough, and ice on the windows obscuring the scene outside. This week’s reason for enjoying Winter is that of the flowers I have growing inside: paper-white bulbs that have been growing up and up since the week before Christmas, and have been blooming indoors for two weeks, happy and content in the warmth.

I’ve even managed, miraculously, to keep a poinsettia alive for two months.

So here we are: flowers thriving in the snow… perhaps not literally, but the juxtaposition is a nice one.

I think flowers in the winter are like the creative ideas we have… these musings that rise up in defiance of cabin fever. Creativity does not need to be an overflowing, uncontainable garden; it can come in quiet little bursts, one or two blossoms at a time, and still be beautiful, tested and refine by ice and snow.


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