Luddite Rant

I TRY NOT TO BE a Luddite, I really do.  I have a laptop and use it daily to write my mystery novels. I have a cell phone and even take occasional photos with it, although that still seems wrong somehow. I communicate with friends via Face Book.  I own a Kindle and download books. I use Wikipedia. And hey, look—I write a blog.

And yet, all of my electronic marvels are like the bastard child of Marvin and Arthur Dent in the Hitchiker’s Guide–they only use about 5% of their brain capacity because I’d really rather be making a cup of tea.

It’s not that I despise or fear technology (although, truly, SkyNet and the Clone Wars seem only moments away most days) I’m just frustrated by the necessity of learning about all this crap, then re-learning it when the newest iteration is “released,” and then listening to people talk about it constantly. Seriously–when did “app” become a word? Worse–when did we all learn what it meant? Even worse–when did we start hearing people talk about the latest ones? Did you know you can “download” an app that allows you to pretend to pop the bubbles on bubble wrap?  I kid you not.

If the internet is the 21st century equivalent of the telephone—meaning that it changed the way we wish each other Merry Christmas, learn about revolutions and the latest fashions, research our term papers and contact each other from vacations in Australia and Bora Bora—then why is so dam’ difficult to use?  Every new tool to access it seems to require a skill set tantamount to running a nuclear power plant (and don’t get me started on actual nuclear power plants).  If telephones had been this complicated in the beginning, we’d still be using semaphore flags. Or maybe telegraphs—which was another simple-to-use technology that changed the world.  Tap a button, send a message. What could be easier?

You know what I miss?

I miss picking my photos up from the drug store and then sticking them in actual albums. And then turning the pages of the albums and enjoying the photos.

I miss people dropping in.  Remember that?  Until about ten years ago (not that long ago really) people used to visit their friends because they hadn’t been in touch for a while.

I miss calling people on the ‘phone and actually reaching them and talking to them. And then picturing them in their living room or bedroom or kitchen and not interrupt them hanging from the side of a cliff somewhere or worse. When did “How are you?” get replaced with “Where are you?”

I miss handwriting.  It’s been a long time since I received any kind of hand written note or letter or card. Hell, it’s been a long time since I sent any.

I miss feeling smart because I know the difference between pica and elite.

Yeah, yeah, it’s all great.  GNP is up; information has largely replaced extractive and industrial production; standards of living have risen all over the place; no parent ever needs to lose a kid because they can “track” them with their iPhones; lovers can break-up without having to meet face-to-face (ye gods); plagiarists have an easier time of it (ye gods again).

We’re all in touch constantly and seem more detached from each other than ever, mostly because we’re so busy trying to figure out the latest version of whatever amazing thingy we’re using to keep us in touch.

I’m never out of touch, and yet sometimes, just sometimes, I wish I was. Maybe I’d feel more connected.

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The Art of the Deal

BEING A WRITER, and a narcissist, it feels like long past time for me to begin a blog. I write genre fiction–murder mysteries mostly (hence the blog name) and also romances, thrillers, that kind of thing.   Those of you who know me well know that I had a contract with Bantam Books a number of years ago, which was the victim of a corporate merger and the consequential cutting back on their stable of new writers. I allowed that set-back to derail me. Clearly, (in addition to being a narcissist) I’m easily discouraged.

So now I’m several months into a leap of faith: I’m taking a year off to write some new things, get a new literary agent, and see if I can get into print. The blog will be some random thoughts on how I write, what I write and (the nature of creativity being what it is) how I don’t write.  Fair warning: this won’t be the useful kind of blog which links you to all sorts of other helpful blogs. It will be mostly a way for me to chronicle my writing life and, if I’m lucky enough to have anyone else read it, to share some of my journey with you.

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Monday, May 6, 2013

I FEEL AS IF I PAY for every productive day with at least two days of wandering around the house lamenting that I’m not writing.  I envy writers who say they write for (add number here) hours a day, or until they’ve written (add number here) words in a day.  I make deals like that with myself all the time.  The trouble is, I’m not trustworthy; I renege on the agreement before the ink on the contract is dry.

A usual day for me begins with a brief work-out; that’s one deal I’m trying to keep.

My mantra is EEDD:

On days when I feel like exercising the initials stand for: Exercise Every Delightful Day

On days when I don’t feel like exercising, they stand for: Exercise Every Damn Day

I drink my breakfast, not in the old-time private eye tradition with a shot of rye, but in the New Age California tradition of kale, apple, strawberries, blueberries and anything else I can find in the fridge whipped up in the blender into a sort of smoothie that’s really closer to a sludgie, but which usually tastes great.

I feed and walk Picasso. On days when he’s feeling a bit frail this might be a turn about the garden. On days when he’s feeling up to it, we take a 30-minute walk around the neighborhood.

When we come back I have a cup of tea and a biscuit and then I have a choice: Laptop or Kindle?

When I choose the Kindle, the day is pretty much over since I often only come out of my reading coma in time for Picasso’s early evening walk.

If I choose the laptop I check my e-mail, then open FaceBook and fool around there for twenty minutes, then I check my e-mail again, delete the junk and write responses to anyone who needs an answer.

I leave the laptop turned on, as a sort of pledge that I’ll return, and go and get another cup of tea.  When I come back I check in on Face Book again. Usually something catches my eye or piques my interest and I wander around on strange Face Book pages for a while, enjoying the sense of learning something new even when the something new is just funny photos of moose up to their knees in snow in Saskatchewan.

When I’ve had my fill of moose photos and I really can’t postpone it any longer, I open one of the three novels I’m currently working on.  On a good day, this is the beginning of four or five hours of productive work. On a not-so-good day I don’t write anything new; I polish and re-write the passages I’ve already written. This is where my genius lies: I can actually postpone writing by writing.  It’s really incredibly clever.  I work at my laptop, my fingers are flying over the keyboard and anyone watching me (not that anyone is) would assume that I’m being as productive as all get-out. But they would be wrong. I know the difference.

There is a time and a place for re-writing and polishing of course.  That time is when the main body of the work is done. But I can polish and polish until the original is completely worn away.

Sometimes my ability to procrastinate amazes even me.

Time to make a new deal: No more polishing for at least another 5,000 words.

I’ll let you know how it works out.