Ephemera and Free Association

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I’ve got nothing today, people.  Nothing at all.

I’ve just finished the rewrite of my contemporary fantasy.  I’m about to start reworking my new shiny from earlier this year.  I have a short story to work on, but I really have no idea what to do with it.  I am in writer limbo:  fresh off one project, gearing up for another.  But right now I really don’t have much to do.  And I don’t have much to say, either.  So here’s a little writing-oriented free association for you:

I was at an event for my daughter’s school the other night, and had the usual conversation.  Someone asked me what I do and I told him that I was a writer.

“Really!  Have you published anything?”

“No, my family and I eat paper and toner for dinner every night.”

No, I didn’t really say that.  But I thought it.  Not fair of me, I know.  It’s a legitimate question.  Sort of.  But come on.   If I introduce myself as a writer, doesn’t that imply that I’m making a living (of sorts) at it?  Pet peeve, I guess.  Although I wasn’t peeved; I just find the question amusing.

I’ve started wearing reading/middle distance glasses when I work at the computer.  Had to, because not wearing any glasses at all was giving me headaches, as was using my distance glasses.  The glasses are bifocals, which I always swore I wouldn’t wear for fear that they’d make me dizzy.  Turns out they don’t.  I’m getting used to them, but wearing them makes me feel old.  My wife says they make me look distinguished.  She’s not a very good liar…

Part of the reason I needed the glasses is that the screen on my new iMac is absolutely gi-normous.  It’s great for processing photos, but it’s a little overwhelming when working in my word processor.  That said, I love, love, love, love my new mac.  I do not miss Windows even a little.

Part of what I love about the mac is my new word processing software.  I always hated MS Word.  Early on I was a WordPerfect user, but Word always came with the Windows machines, and whenever I tried to install my old WordPerfect programs they didn’t work very well with Windows.  Well, now I’m using Nisus Writer Pro, and it is terrific.  It’s as close to WP as anything I’ve used in years.  It’s smart enough to help me do the things I need to do, but not annoyingly smart like Word.  What do I mean?  Well, for instance, there are times when I want to highlight part of a word, but not all of it.  When I used to try to highlight letters within a word, MS Word would always snap to the beginning and end of the word, assuming I wanted the whole thing highlighted.  Nisus lets me highlight what I want.  It assumes nothing.  Same with its auto-correct.  It does what I want; never more.  I like that.  Nisus saves everything in RTF, so that any other program can open it with minimal problems.  Its thesaurus is better than Word’s, and its interface is easy to use and felt familiar almost immediately.  For those of you who use Macs and don’t have a word processing software that you like I recommend it highly.

Other than that, the office is much the same as ever.  I have my jazz on when I’m writing.  I have my guitar handy when I need a break.  I have pictures of my kids and my wife scattered all around.  I have my little Acoma Storyteller sculpture right in front of me, along with a few cool geodes and crystals.  I have a pair of binoculars handy in case a hawk or hummingbird or migrating warbler lands outside my window.  I have a new little dragon from Misty.  Thanks, Misty!

And now I have a really lame Magical Words post to put up for Monday’s readers.  Forgive me, friends.  I’ll have a more substantive post next week.  I promise.  This was just one of the those weeks.  I’m in the middle of a three day weekend.  I feel lazy.  I have no pressing writing issues on my mind.  I intend to enjoy my Labor Day holiday, and I hope that you will, too.

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22 comments to Ephemera and Free Association

  • Barry King

    I must have been traumatized by Word, because the last time I did any creative writing on it was Word 4 for the Mac. This was back in 1990 or 1991 before there WAS windows, when Word was an exclusively mac program and it still worked with you and not against you.

    But then I started doing computer things professionally and I learned the beauty of plain text editors. It began with Usenet, how you put /slashes/ around anything you want to italicize, *asterisks* around bolds, and _underscores_ to indicate underlining. The fonts are generally very easy to read even in the tiny sizes, and best of all, your text cannot be lost through incompatibility. I can open something I wrote in 1993 with the same editor I use today (which happens to be BBEdit, another great Mac-only application). It also means that I can check my work in to a central code repository, where every version and every change is recorded and can be rolled back or referred to, or whatever. And don’t get me started on the amazing search-replace formatting magic you can do with perl-compatible-regular-expressions!

    Of course, when it comes time to submission, the document has to be translated into “real” formatting codes and put into a Word/PDF/RTF document, but at least when it gets there, it’s very clean, without any hidden formatting gotchas.

    Nowadays, I sit down in front of a blank Word document, try to type a few lines, and recoil in horror at the “helpfulness” of having my grammar pointed out in green lines, quotations “smartened”, words I don’t want capitalized capitalized, and the damn paper clip running around demanding to show me how to write a business letter and then crashing the program when I tell it to go away, and this corrupts my document losing hours of work. It makes my stomach churn, it really does. That’s when I shut it down and go back to the text editor that is so un-helpful you even have to tell it to word-wrap the paragraphs. Wonderful.

  • Y’all, I know Mac is supposed to the cat’s PJs, but … and, okay, I admit to being a compudunce, but … well, I just turn off the Wondows Word stuff I don’t like, and turn on the stuff I do like. There’s buttons for it and everything. Grammar, half-word italices, everything is there… Not trying to start a commercial war or nothin. (laughing) Nope. Not me. But I like my PC. there. I said it. (laughing harder)

  • Wow, Barry. I’ve never used a plain text editor, and I wonder if I’d be able to learn what I needed to without going nuts. But it sounds as though you’ve found a great system for you. I prefer to have my program do _some_ stuff for me — just not everything.

    Faith, I tried with Word. Really I did. I looked for everything that I could turn off or turn on or switch around so that it wouldn’t do the stuff I didn’t want it to do and would do the stuff that I liked. But I wasn’t smart enough to make it work for me. Word was caring and helpful. It loved me, I know it did. The problem was me, not Word. I needed something different, something that would let me be myself. Maybe I wasn’t ready to commit the way Word wanted me to. I wasn’t ready to be the typist it needed me to be. I was immature and selfish. Word deserved better. But it’s moved on, and . . . and I have, too….

  • Hey. More Word for me, David. More Word for me.

  • L. Jagi Lamplighter

    I really sympathize with your complaints about MSWord…I hated that stuff, too. Now, I love MSWord…but it’s because I spend hours customizing it every time I install it. The time is annoying, but it’s worth it.

    But I can really empathize with a program that just does that stuff for you!

  • Yeah, It’s a nice program, Jagi. As I said (a little tongue-in-cheek) to Faith, if I’d had a better understanding of Word and had been able to make it do all I wanted it to, I might not have switched (although many people who use Word for Mac hate it). But I didn’t have the knowledge, or the patience necessary to learn what I needed to.

  • Shay

    “Part of the reason I needed the glasses is that the screen on my new iMac is absolutely gi-normous. It’s great for processing photos, but it’s a little overwhelming when working in my word processor.”

    This is a little thing called ‘screen resolution’ I’m not a Mac user so I can’t explain how to change it on yours. I did find a web page that has the steps: http://support.apple.com/kb/TA21610

    Since you just got a new machine it’s probably set ridiculously high (1680×900 or thereabouts). Try reducing it to 1024×768 (standard size from a few years ago) that should make everything not so tiny for you. It will look slightly fuzzy until you restart and your monitor adjusts to what you’ve just done. You can always follow the steps again to reset it if you find it doesn’t work for you. Make note of your original resolution!

    Hope I helped, your books have made my day better several times.

  • Shay

    Oops on the link apparently, that’s for making your monitor change on it’s own, what I was thinking of doing is explained on this page: http://support.apple.com/kb/HT2490#l2

    Sorry, Window’s machines don’t have.. zoomable? monitors!

  • I started with WordPerfect, and loved, loved, loved it. But it just kept getting harder to use with Windows installed. And Word came with my Windows machine, so…. I actually found I liked it. In ten years I can’t recall Word ever crashing. Worst case, I lose electricity and lose some of what I wrote (set to auto-save every 1 minute).

    Those much heralded, glorious Godsent computing machines called Apple and Mac might be the greatest invention since democracy, but still. They are rich peoples’ toys. And yes, the Mac commercial makes the PC guy look like a total nimrod, but that just pisses me off toward Mac. How dare them insult me. Maybe I’m not cool enough for a Mac.

    Okay, I’ll be honest, I really am NOT cool enough for a Mac. Really. LOL

    Finally…Guy at work was showing off his new Mac Laptop. Two grand. I got a Dell, 500 dollar American. I did the math. I does the exact same thing as far as I’m concerned.

    All Hail the PC.

  • Thanks for the tips, Shay. Actually, my problem isn’t that the writing is too small, but rather that my eyes just don’t focus on stuff that’s close to me as well as they used to. It’s called middle-age, and there is no cure. 😉 The glasses help make it very clear, and I wouldn’t want to change the resolution; I like how the screen looks as it is. But I appreciate the thought and the link.

    And Tom, you’re definitely cool enough for a mac. That is, assuming I am…. My iMac wasn’t more than $150-200 more than the machine I considered getting from Dell, and it was well worth that extra expense. I’m not rich by any means, but I knew what I wanted, not only for the writing stuff, but also for my photography, and there was no way that a budget level Dell could handle it.

  • Should add here that I really don’t want this to become a Mac vs. PC fight. We all have our computers and we love or hate them for whatever reason. No need for this to devolve into something ugly. I wrote my post intending it to be fun, playful, kind of goofy. Let’s keep things on that level, okay?

  • What? No fight? But..but…I have some really mushy rotten peaches in a bowel right here. Oh, shucks. I guess you’re right. A virtual food fight would just … um…virtually dirtied our computers.

    Besides, computers are like children, we all have our favorites. (Can you tell I don’t have children?)

    A last note for me: I actually considered a Mac, after hearing they don’t have much of a problem with viruses compared with IBM based PCs.

  • Mushy peaches? Make a cobbler….

    Computers are like children before they (the children) become teens. Then the kids’ logic boards short out and they’re nothing like computers at all….

  • <>

    Yuck — rotten peaches in a BOWEL? I don’t want to know how long you’ve been collecting those.

  • No, I didn’t really say that. But I thought it. Not fair of me, I know. It’s a legitimate question. Sort of. But come on.

    The one that makes me crazy is “Where can I get your book?” I always want to ask where they go for all the rest of the books they buy. *laughs*

    My wife says they make me look distinguished. She’s not a very good liar…

    But a very sweet one!

    I have a new little dragon from Misty. Thanks, Misty!

    My pleasure entirely!

  • Wow, Stuart. Missed that entirely. Yeah, Tom. Gross….

    Thanks, Misty. I get a version of that question, too. “Can I find your books in a bookstore?” “No, my writing is so yummy you have to get it at a Deli….”

  • Beatriz

    Ya know, David, if you were wearing a kilt and the new glasses, I’m *sure* you’d look not only distinguished but dashing as well!

    Just sayin’.

    B.

  • Perhaps, but we’ll never know, will we…..

  • You know, it occurs to me that David should have his first kilt-wearing at D*Con. There’d be so many box troopers and zombie Spidermen and three-quarters-naked wood nymphs running around that he’d feel like he was wearing ordinary clothes!

    ;D

  • Where else do you keep rotten peaches? Really?

    Good catch. I laughed until I cried. Sometimes typos can be so much fun.

  • For a Mac word processor designed with the fiction writer in mind, try Scrivener from Literature and Latte. It comes with a tutorial, and features for keeping track of research, characters, revisions, and so on and so forth.

  • I have several friends who love Scrivener. I use pen and notecard for handling characters, research notes, etc. But I may switch at some point. Thanks for the tip and the link.