Yes, I name them

For some months now I’ve been giving thought to the issue that my relationship with my primary writing tool has become overly complicated.  This may be one of those crazy artist things to worry about, but whether it is or not, it’s a simple fact that when I sit down with the tools of my trade, my cognitive processes should be focused on the task at hand.  When I break out the canvas, the easel, and the brushes, it’s to paint.  When I sit down at a sewing machine, it’s to swear sew.  When I turn on a camera, it’s to take photographs.  But when I bring myself to the keyboard with the intention of writing, there are just so many other things my computer is capable of doing besides running Word.  Worse is that many of them are necessary, important, or tangibly rewarding at the very least in their own ways.

This means that, on some level, it’s not possible for me to think of my computer as a writing device because I can’t divorce my mental associations of it from all of the other things I use it for.  Which, in turn, means that when I’m trying to devote a particular block of time or word goal to writing on it, I can’t entirely get myself into the mindset that I am, in fact, either an artist creating or a professional at work.  Unfortunately, I seem to need that focus.

I’ve tried a few approaches to this problem.  I thought perhaps if I created a dedicated work space in the home, that going there would help induce the proper mindset.  That’s fine, as far as it goes; but for various reasons, I can’t always be there when I’m writing.  I’ve tried the good old-fashioned pen-and-notebook solution.  Since there’s nothing else those are for, just making words, it’s a pure relationship.  Again, this is fine, but there are limitations.  I can jot down notes, draft scenes, freeform mental images this way – but I can’t engage in the rather involved process of bringing a multi-chapter novel together, not when the bulk of the work, my references, and my notes are stored on my hard drive.  I may not like it, but the computer is an essential tool of my craft.

So it started to seem to me that the solution might lie in another direction.  Perhaps a home desktop computer to perform all of the necessary functions other than writing?  Macro.  Or maybe a simple tablet device used only for writing (and perhaps, at most, as an e-reader,) leaving my laptop (Alucard) free for everything else?  Micro.  Of course I discussed these options with Mr. Technology, tentatively arriving at the conclusion that a tablet made the most sense for my needs.  And of course, being Tim, he had to over-engineer a solution to my problem.

This has all been a lead-in to the news that I’ve spent the past week trying to find a place and purpose in my life for the ASUS tablet with which he surprised me as an anniversary/ very late birthday present.  The reason it has proven difficult is because it is far more machine than I needed for the uses I’ve outlined.  If there’s a function you could expect from a portable computing device, this thing does it.  It’s got the internets, the YouTubes, the Netflix, the SatNav, the Skype.  It e-reads.  It plays music (with speakers better than the junk on my laptop.)  It runs all the time-wasting apps I’ll never need.  It checks the weather (unnecessarily.  I’m in Phoenix; I know perfectly well what the bloody weather is doing.)  It’s an 8MP camera.  It’s got voice recognition.  I haven’t even explored half of the nonsense this thing is capable of.  Oh, and, let’s add that it has a vivid, crystal-sharp display so it’s nice for looking at my photography.  And because it is capable of remotely synching to my computer, thereby giving me access to all of my files and programs, I can write on it too.

So… where does that leave it in the toolkit?  Where does that leave the laptop?  At this point, I still just don’t know.

Obviously, both have their strengths and limitations, but the point of this entire operation was to simplify my relationship with my writing device, not to introduce a complicated realm of new options.  I appreciate the thought behind the gift, of course, but it’s giving me a headache.  I’ve spent the past week trying to learn the ins and outs of the tablet (she’s named Varda) in an effort to figure out how best to integrate it into my routine.  The most logical thing to do, given its various capabilities, would be to use it as my internet device and retire Alucard from that function so we can focus on writing together.  But the tablet remains just a little bit unwieldy in that regard, and anyway my people don’t handle change very well.

And this is really one of the most pointless posts I have ever written.  I’m angsting over my “relationship” with my electronic equipment.

This is what my life has come to.

Here but not really

I don’t know what came over me last night, but I had a strange experience at the piano.

When I sat down to it and put my fingers to the keys, the sound that came out of the instrument took me by unpleasant surprise.  At first it seemed to me as though somehow every note on the piano had gone flat by a whole step since the last time I’d played.  Then, as I moved through more bars, it felt like I was hearing the music I was playing for the first time.  It was unfamiliar.  After a while longer, I had a sensation like there was something between me and the music, some kind of membrane preventing full contact, forcing a layer of removal. I became overly fixated on the process of making the music, because the music itself was out of reach.  And in such a state, the process itself came to feel very awkward and mechanical indeed.

I have a sneaking, unpleasant feeling that I’ve been in this place before.  That this is where I was in the years just before my diagnosis, right before I had a nervous breakdown and failed out of school one semester short of my degree.  That it may be why I gave up on music for so many years.  I’m suddenly reminded of how much it hurt me when Lucas said to Danielle, “Sometimes you just stop hearing it.”  I don’t want to stop hearing it.  Without art, without music, without the creative instinct, I’m not Alyssa.  I’m not even alive.

Background to the fore

June is here, with all that entails.  Needless to say, it is very hot right now.  As per the yearly ritual, I’ve been diving through my photos to find a cooling image to live on my desktop for the next few months.  I collect pictures of snow and water year-round for just this purpose. I’d share the wallpaper I settled on if I remembered where it came from so I could link to the source.

I will, however, share the full version of the blog’s background photo.  Because it’s my photo, and so I own the rights to it, and I’m proud of it, and I attach many pleasant (and cool) memories to the experience of taking it.

Phipps Conservatory Pittsburgh, PA

Phipps Conservatory
Pittsburgh, PA

This means something, but I’d need therapy to tell you what

At some point yesterday afternoon, I suddenly remembered my dream from the night before.  That’s often the way it happens, actually.  Either I wake from the dream still surrounded by it, enmeshed in it, or I wake in an amnesiac state that I only emerge from slowly, frame by frame, after some time has passed.  Yesterday it happened slowly and late.

I was in the car with Tim at the time, so I began telling him about this strange dream as it came back to me.

We were preparing for the onslaught of an apocalyptic hurricane.  Yes, a hurricane, in Phoenix, Arizona.  For some reason, even though we knew about this impending disaster with enough time to make emergency preparations, we apparently didn’t have time (or the ability) to get home, because we were obliged to batten down with several strangers inside a Walmart.  I don’t even know, man.  And for some reason these emergency precautions involved getting all of our dog food into plastic bags where it would be safe.  We had only just finished doing this when the wall of weather hit.

But then, as though this wasn’t already a strange thing to dream about, as I was telling Tim about it I suddenly remembered that I had the same dream at least twice in the same night, because we did things slightly differently the second time.  And that second time, for whatever reason cooked up by my subconscious, my (many years-deceased) grandma was with us.

In The Dream take #2, my brother was there and had just sold a number of rare collectibles to a shop sharing the same parking lot as our Walmart of refuge.  The shop had closed in anticipation of the world-ending storm, and my brother was so concerned about the possible destruction of a particular rare card he’d just sold that he convinced my poor old grandma to brave the edge of the oncoming storm to go out and rescue it by breaking into the shop.  She never came back.

Also in the second version, the layout of the Walmart had changed and I could no longer find any of the emergency supplies I was attempting to gather.  In the first dream, I took charge, got everyone involved in setting up flood barriers, managed the allocation of supplies, and waited out the storm secure in my preparations.  In the second dream, I lost my grandma and couldn’t even find the flashlights, and meanwhile the other refugees were arguing over how best to store our drinking water.  And that damn dog food still wasn’t bagged when the flood waters came racing in.

I don’t know which thing to goggle at more in any of this.  The fact that I apparently did a re-take of a dream seems like a good thing to scratch my head at – a re-take in which everything was worse, at that.  Not like a recurring dream on subsequent nights, or even a recurring dream twice in one night, but like the dream did a rolling reset and the director just kept shooting.  I’m sure I’m not the first person this has ever happened to, but it still seems strange.