Tag Archives: technology

Space Controversy

I read an article today about double-spacing behind a period and, I have to say, I didn’t know how prevalent the new rule had become. As I considered the reason for it – stemming from the change in technology from the monospaced characters of typewriters to the proportional spacing of computers – I realize it makes complete sense. The vast fonts and styles of the computer age lessens the need for hard and fast rules for affecting readability. I read newspaper articles and word processor submissions and see how unnecessary a second space is. Sure, I’ll give you that.

But change is hard! I, myself, have never been especially good at it, and certainly not when the change involves something that I’ve only ever learned one way of doing.

Usually, I’m resistant to change. For instance, while I am happy to read the occasional article online, I am in no hurry to give up printed newspapers, books, and magazines in favor of a handheld device for all my reading. I also will not bow down to popular word usage and grammar exceptions simply because enough people use their first language incorrectly. (It doesn’t matter how many dictionaries include it, “irregardless” is almost always noted as “nonstandard” or “incorrect” usage. It’s definition tells you it’s wrong. Stop it!)

But in the case of the double-space (hee hee, rhyming is fun), I claim the old but true adage, “Old habits die hard”. Even now, as I type, I am making a very conscious effort tot only tap the SPACEBAR once. And it feels wrong.

After typing for so many years, and increasing my QWERTY speed such that I don’t even recognize what keys I’m hitting, I struggle to stop long enough to actually realize that, not only did I just tap the SPACEBAR twice in quick succession, but I also used TAB to indent this paragraph, which is also unnecessary. This changing of the times, while understandable, is going to require a lot of BACKSPACE.

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M – Meetup: Where Are All The Writers?!?

As we all know, writing can be a very lonely hobby and profession.  If it’s your full time job, you may spend up to 8 hours of the day, like Stewart O’Nan, at your computer or desk or typewriter or notebook.  If it’s a hobby, you probably try to spend at least a couple of hours, like me, at your computer, et al, and 8 hours or more at work, and hours with family, and (if you’re lucky) at least 7 to 8 hours sleeping.  (Wouldn’t that be nice!)  With all that time alone, how do you get to meet people, socialize, find other writers who share your pain and celebrations?

One of the greatest tools I have found is Meetup.com.  Meetup.com is a website devoted to bringing people together via the internet to meet in real life activities and events.  They can be found in most every city – the major hubs, obviously, but some smaller cities too.  (When I searched my hometown, which is notably smaller than my current city of residence, I found over 100.  Flint, Michigan with a population of just 100,000 also had over 100 groups.)

Now, you may be thinking, “What does that have to do with writing?”  Well, like I say; writing can be a lonely business, but humans are generally social animals.  So finding a group that you can cut loose with is important.  The site has groups that are of vast interests and purposes.  Let’s remember, too, that writing is a sedentary activity, so if you can find a group that goes on a hike once a week or gets together for tennis or other sport, you can get some exercise too.

And, of course,  every city I searched had at least one group of writers.  If you can get in with a good writing group, you are on your way to completion and success. While Meetup is not the only way, it is one of several ways to find a good writing group that can help advise you and critique your work. I attribute the completion of my first MS entirely to a writing group I attended for about 5 years.  A good group can be an excellent source of motivation, wonderful critique, and a solace when you are struggling with your work.

So look for a good Meetup in your area, and get out and find writers!

 

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L – Letter Writing: It’s For Posterity

I’m an old soul. I’ve known that for years, but as technology advances, and we become more and more distanced as a global society, I find my old soul more and more obvious. One of the points that proves this to me: It breaks my heart that people don’t write letters anymore.

Sure, we email friends. We keep in touch via facebook and Twitter. We make important business connections through LinkedIn. We make new friends through online forums over shared interests. And that’s great and all.

But I miss letters. I miss them because of the beauty of them. There was an art to writing letters. One didn’t write a letter to a friend to share all the details of each day. One wrote a letter when something extraordinary had happened. The death of a loved one, or the celebration of new life, marriage, retirement even. One wrote a letter to share the thoughts of a challenging event, either in one’s personal life or the world around him/her. And these letters were truly writing. Writing the way we write our stories, and novels, and nonfiction. It was worth it to sit down and really get the words right because it was important to communicate as clearly and eloquently as possible what you were thinking. The fact is, the person on the other end couldn’t just retort a quick, “Huh?”, and allow you to clarify. The meaning had to be just right, and this was an art.

But there was a visual art to it, as well, in the penmanship. We have allowed penmanship to fall by the wayside, even in our elementary schools where we our teaching our children that writing is a thing you can do, but typing is what you must learn. I remember as a child devoting so much class time and homework time to handwriting – learning print, then cursive – and I worked hard on it. But after I had learned the “correct” way, I began to play with the forms of the letters, and this is where the artist takes over. I have now developed a truly unique penmanship that I rarely ever get to use. (It’s one of the reasons I generally write all my fiction by hand before transcribing it into the computer.)

So, maybe I should pose another challenge here. Write a letter. But not just one, many. Find someone with whom you can begin a correspondence. Why? Because of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Letters From A Birmingham Jail. Because of the abundance of information we know about famous writers, politicians, leaders, thinkers, movers, and shakers of history – most of which we discovered through their letters.

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K – Kindle: Oh Where, Oh Where Have My Paper Books Gone?

I’m not the first, and I’m certain I won’t be the last, to write about the trend of the E-Reader. I single out Kindle because it was one of the first that I remember really taking off, and turning ebooks into a thing. (It also happens to begin with “K”, and today is “K-day”, but that was really more of a coincidence than anything else.)

I’ve had several discussions with friends and family about the benefits of using an E-reader versus a paper book, and I understand them all. But for me, it just doesn’t feel like reading. It feels like reading from a computer, because that’s what it is. I’m reading from a screen, and it’s just not the same.

I’m one of those weird people who, not only delights in the touch and feel of a book, though I do!  But there’s more to it than that. I love opening a new book, and holding it in my hand, careful not to break the binding. I love the way a new book smells, as though the ink has it’s own unique scent that is simply not the same as other types of ink. And I love holding an old book – one that I’ve bought from a used bookstore, or borrowed from the library. To see all the dog-eared pages, and feel the soft binding that’s been opened so many times, it no longer wants to stay closed. And more than that; I’m the kind of person who sees all my books on their shelves as the best, most aesthetically pleasing decoration in my house. Sometimes, sitting on my couch just before I prepare to go to bed, I will look across the living room at my bookshelf and just smile, because they all look so pretty lined up just so.

Why would I want to trade all that in for yet another screen?

 

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