Is That A Panther in Your Pocket?

September 25th, 2004 · No Comments
by Booksquare

Due to the extreme need to test-drive Entourage for a client, the husband took a long look at our iBook this morning. It is, he declared, a wonderful piece of art (would that all art be orange), but it is insufficient for our current needs (less bulk, longer battery life, memory, speed, bigger hard drive). We blinked and smiled, bearing in mind the advice of the great Arlene Dahl: Always let him think it’s his idea.

So, off we went to the place where we buy our laptops (for some reason, we enter physical establishments for laptops, but always get the much larger desktops via UPS). Closed. And here we’d gone and gotten our hopes up. Next stop? The Apple Store. Now, we knew there was no way we’d walk out of there with our now much-desired new laptop (amazing how quickly a vague interest turns into raging lust) — the place we purchase our laptops always throws in a free memory upgrade or two (according to the husband, Mac memory is expensive; he tracks the prices of memory the way some watch the stock market). We did, however, acquire an Airport Express card. We’re supposed to look at it and imagine what will be.

Also, we got to eavesdrop as a seventy-something woman patiently explained to her forty-something daughter that HP does have an iPod product.

We do a lot of things on our computers — one day last week, we were actively using the PC desktop and the iBook. We probably shouldn’t admit that.

We spend most of our waking life at the computer. Another thing we probably shouldn’t admit. Thousands of words pass through our keyboard every week. We started using a word processor back in the days when you had to enter your starting and ending codes as part of the process (hence our comfort with HTML — same concept). We’ve been around the block and the some when it comes to word processing programs. This somehow explains why the majority of this blog is composed in a plain text editor.

So our secret truth might not make sense to anyone, but here it is: we write our fiction longhand. In pencil (the clicky type as frequent stops to sharpen irritate us). In a journal made in England that we had to special order this year because the distributor changed and our local store couldn’t get it for us (we take some comfort in knowing that we are weird, but others are just as weird about their writing environment). We also use a lot of index cards for the random thoughts that pop in during the day.

For a long time, we used the computer for the first draft process (we do a lot of revisions, so also use it for the ninth draft process). It made sense — we think fast, we type fast. We also second-guess fast. Incredibly fast. Often, we’d write a paragraph and then spend the rest of the day locked in a pitched battle to make it the best ever. It is with some shame that we admit the paragraph always ended up a victim of our final attempts at triage. To say the patient died from too much attention is letting us off the hook too easily.

After the draft is done, then we transcribe it into the computer — this is where the need for lots of oomph in the laptop becomes critical. We only failed one subject in our academic career. Handwriting. Trying to figure out the meaning of the scribbles on the page is a challenge we face with dread. Each time, we think there must be an easier way, yet this is the way that works.

All of this came to mind as we read Terry Teachout’s essay on his relationship with technology — and bold move into OS X. We love the tools and toys we use, from the tried-and-true voice activated tape recorder to the how-did-we-survive-without-it iPod. And we never leave the house without our pencil and paper. That being said, when we get the computer to go with the cute new wireless card (he said something about building a shrine around it, so it could be a while), we suspect we will be so madly in love, all writing will be composed at the speed of fingers on the new machine.

Which will just give us more time for the never-long-enough revision process.

File Under: Tools and Craft