Every so often, approximately every two weeks, time begins to add up. There are no obvious outward signs. With an uneaten loaf of bread you'd notice little spots of mold after a while. Milk goes sour, and there's usually an expired freshness date on the carton. Eggs... well, we probably don't want to think too much about what happens to eggs. On a blog there's just not much to go by. It's a subjective thing. Here on this blog I am the honcho, the primary instigator, so it comes down to me to decide. I don't have a set schedule. I'm not a Type A personality who is driven to achieve. Nevertheless, in some indirect and invisible way, I know when it's time. My blog goes stale. There's a niggling little alarm, a Sonalert, going off in the back of my head. Sometimes it keeps me awake at night.
When that happens, there's no help for it. I have to write a new entry. Somehow I have to come up with a new idea and commit it to paper. Well, not actual physical paper, but you know what I mean. Gotta type it and upload it, and only then can I rest easy.
Coming up with an idea is not usually the hard part. The hard part is the typing. I'm a fair typist, I suppose. I've even had lessons — for six weeks one summer at the Burlington Business College. (Come to think of it, I could probably patch up a passable post based on that singular episode alone.) The folks at BBC made sure I became a full-fledged two-fisted typist, none of this hunt and peck business. Nonetheless, as a facile interface between my mind and the digital domain, typing falls woefully short of the mark. I can think 'way faster than I can type. Therein lies the problem.
There's many a slip 'twixt cup and lip.
...Or in this case, twixt mind and keyboard. Perhaps the worst offender is the CAPS LOCK key. Mine is above the left Shift key. I hit it by mistake all the time. In fact it would be fair to say that I only ever hit it by mistake, because I seldom have any legitimate use for the danged thing at all. Why don't they put it up in the corner with Scroll Lock and Num Lock, where it belongs? That's a rhetorical question. I already know the answer. I learned to type on old style mechanical typewriters. The CAPS LOCK key inherits its position from those clunky historical relics. Goodness knows we wouldn't want to flout such a well-established, ancient and honorable convention.
See, the thing is, on the old mechanical machines there was not a usability problem. The unmarked round keys on the BBC's sturdy black Royal typewriter had a completely different feel. You had to depress the shift lock about an inch for it to engage. There was a clunk and a vibration that traveled right up your arm. It was absolutely not something that was likely to happen by accident without your realizing it. But now, on my cool white ergonomic Microsoft Natural keyboard, all the keys have the same soft touch. CAPS LOCK triggers a green LED when it engages, but I'm not looking at the diode when I type. My first clue arrives WHEN THE TEXT STARTS SHOUTING AT ME, AND i HAVE TO BACKTRACK AND DO IT ALL OVER.
Another similar problem occurs if the fingers of either hand stray off the home keys. Eventually I look up and notice that I've suddenly started typing gibberish. The effect is the same: back up and try again.
One group of recurring interruptions cannot be avoided. I am an animal. I must eat, drink and sleep. I must adjourn periodically to the restroom. I get tired. Sometimes, when I'm working late, I fall asleep at the console. Most nights I retain the presence of mind to rouse, arise and take myself to bed.
I get distracted easily. I generally keep two or three other programs running on my computer besides the editor. Outlook announces arriving e-mail with the eerie cry of a loon. Reading and replying take a few minutes. Then I may wander off into the wide web world. Sometimes I have a good reason, such as when I need to research something. Google, Wikipedia and Dictionary.com are my friends. Basically it comes down to self-discipline. Sometimes I have it; sometimes it goes AWOL. The computer is a portal to endless distractions, which dwell only a few mouse clicks away. Perhaps I have time for one quick game of FreeCell...
There are external sources of interruption. The phone may ring, or the doorbell. Either one effectively breaks my chain of thought (or snaps me out of FreeCell... Huh?).
My spouse may announce that it's dinnertime. That is one exemplar of a whole class of interruptions of the form, "Stop now because it is time for X". A television show. A dental appointment. A social engagement. Whatever. I must hit the Save button, hoist my butt out of the swivel chair and walk away. The creative flow is staunched. The ideas that were bubbling in ferment slowly cool and coagulate.
When one door closes, another door opens.
So what happens when I revisit the saved file an hour, a day or a week later?
Aye, there's the rub. This is not the productive, creative scene that I left behind me. This is the aftermath of that scene. The bluebird of inspiration has flown the coop.
The good news is that I have a new block of time. I can spend part of it trying to reconstruct my thought process. The bad news is that I have time for second guessing. Do I still want to say this? Will the fine folks at Weather Underground even care what I have to say about this? Do I want to say it this way? Maybe I should change it around, try coming at it from a different angle. Maybe I should introduce additional supporting material or tie this subject in with another topic that has been incubating in my mind.
You can see where this leads. It's a miracle this blog ever gets updated at all.Best if consumed by: 25 Feb 2011Previous Entry
A Souvenir from Jack Frost (Bogon
A dusting of snow to brighten an otherwise gray morning. Our forecast calls for sunshine, 43°. This snow is doomed.
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