Archive for February, 2010

I’ve made a significant break through in my writing.  It’s something I’ve been struggling with for my entire life.  Something most writers don’t talk about because it’s such a personal thing on the one hand, yet so very important to a successful process.  I’m talking about, of course, what do you write with?

When I first started writing, back in the Dark Ages of Junior High School, the immediate tools at hand were a #2 pencil, an eraser and loose-leaf notebook paper.  These faithful servants have been with me ever since.  Even once I learned to type in high school, my pencil pack never left my side.  Then there were the earliest of computers in college, but a well-sharpened Ticonderoga and college-ruled spiral notebooks were still with me.  The creative process would be slogged through with lead and wood pulp, sometimes the paper erased so many times that you could almost read through it, my hands becoming covered with pencil residue and the words smearing nearly into oblivion.

As I left the sheltered environment of school and entered the “real” world of the adult work force, I still held on to my pencil and paper for any creative tasks.   Gradually, as I became a better typist and as computers became more prevalent in the work place, I was able to do short work-related tasks on the keyboard: simple letters, memos, reports.  But still nothing that I deemed truly “creative,” that being my fiction writing.

There was something about being able to sit just about anywhere, anytime, with your tools and your imagination and bring a world to life at your fingertips.  The feel of the wood in your hand, the sound the pencil lead made as it stroked across the paper, the ability to rid your mistakes or changes with a simple swipe of rubber.  No fancy machinery that comes with a manual as big as any book you might read.  No complicated software programs that take a week at a seminar to learn to the point of usefulness (remember the world before WYSIWYG?  Or drop down menus?  Or point and click?).  No ever-changing storage systems (5.25” floppy, anyone?)  Just you and your words.

The problem with hand-writing your creations, especially as you get into longer formats such as novels, is that eventually they have to end up in the typewritten form.  Agents, publishers, editors don’t want handwritten manuscripts, no matter how nice or clear your calligraphy may be.  So that means you have to now type what you have painstakingly crafted over the days, weeks, or even months before you can hand it off to anyone.  On the one hand, this gives you the opportunity to edit your creation.  On the other, it’s a tortuous, time-consuming process that leaves you dreading ever setting eyes on the thing again.  The latter would be me.

When I was given this latest opportunity to return to my creative roots, I spent some time trying to decide what tools would work best for me.  I struggled with the need to have my novel end up in my laptop, and the instinctive need to write the way I’ve always written.  The art of hand writing is a dying one because of the computer age, and I’m probably a member of the last generation to cling to that ancient communications form heading for extinction.  The urge to hang on to my tried-and-true love, the time-tested #2 pencil, was almost overwhelming.  I toyed with the idea of a mechanical pencil (there are some very nice ones I use for other tasks – the point is always sharp!), and even the lovely fountain pen (get a good one and you’ll never go back to a regular pen again) but that familiar Ole’ Yeller was still top of the list.  Though, recently, they came out with the Tri-conderoga, a triangular barrel with a rubberized surface which makes writing with it a nice experience.  But still the same company, so it counts as far as I’m concerned.

Anyway, there was still the problem of getting the hand-writing into the computer.  But we are now in an advanced technological age, so perhaps there was a way to do it.  After some research, I discovered my lovely little laptop, which I’ve owned for over five years now, has a software feature that will allow me to translate the hand-written word into the type-written word.  All I needed to do was get a graphics tablet and off I could go.  So off I went.

I’m a serious gadget geek, so a new toy really made my day.  I could sit with my laptop, write my novel, and watch the words appear in my word processing document.  My cat loved it, too, because now he could sit in my lap while I worked since my keyboard didn’t have to be there.  If the cat’s happy, he’s quiet, and so is everyone else in the house.  Otherwise, he proves his Siamese heritage repeatedly at the top of his voice.

So there I was hand-writing my novel into my computer.  About the same time I started that, I decided to start this blog.  The weird thing about the blog is, I could just type it directly into the computer.  It wasn’t really fiction, more stream-of-consciousness, so I just did it without thinking about it.  Being that I’ve made my living for over 25 years in the administrative field, I can attest that typing is a much faster entry form than writing.  I can do a blog entry in about 90 minutes, including those long pauses when you’re just staring at the screen.  The same amount of words in hand-writing would take me nearly twice that.  The more blogs I did, the more I wrote on my novel, the more I noticed the difference.

Then that fateful night came.  I’d been working on some household records, leaning forward over my keyboard, and my cat had tucked himself into that tiny space between my lower back and my chair back, purring furiously and being very warm on a sore spot I hadn’t realized I had.  Not wanting to be the cause of another Siamese eruption, especially since my husband was in bed, I pulled out my notes and began to work on my novel from the keyboard.  Typing fiction directly into the computer.  Not even thinking about it.  And I got twice as much done as previous nights.

And that is my revelation.  Thanks to this blog and a whiney old cat, I have joined the 21st century and am now typing my fictional creations directly into my computer.  I will always have a soft spot for the hand-written word, but the practical needs of the modern era have given me the opportunity to change.  Change is the only constant in the universe, and the thing that makes humans so versatile is our ability to change in response to whatever is thrown at us.

So just because you’re an old dog, doesn’t mean you can’t learn new tricks.

© 2010  Cheri K. Endsley.  All Rights Reserved.

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The 2010 Census is upon us.  There have been commercials on TV, flyers in the mail, and posters around town reminding us about the once-a-decade ante-up.  The administrator in me understands the need for such things.  Humans have been counting, cataloguing, inventorying, and totaling all sorts of things since ancient times.  Even the Egyptian Pharaohs had to deal with accountants.  I think we do it to try and feel like we have control over things we really don’t and to justify those actions we really shouldn’t take.

The person I am, though, really has a problem with having to stand up and be counted like another bean in the pile, as if my previous decades of existence hadn’t already proved I’m here.  It’s just another method for Government to try and keep control on the populace, working the other side of the aisle from Religion to maintain the corral around the masses.  You might have guessed by now that there’s a little bit of rebel in me…

It is a necessary evil to have some form of organization to help keep a group from exploding into anarchy.  But the irony is, there is no such thing as true anarchy.  Were our government to fall tomorrow, we would find ourselves quickly dividing up into other organized groups, albeit smaller, to try and muddle our way through the world.  We’d unite ourselves by family lines, neighborhoods, religious preference, computer platform, comic book hero or even football teams.  It is in the human genetic makeup to find a “tribe” to be part of, however big or small, and based on as many different factors as there are humans in the world.  This is why gangs have the prevalence they do: they give people someplace to belong, when they otherwise might not.  As a rule, we humans are pack animals and we instinctively fall into that trap in nearly every phase of our lives.

The part that really bugs me about this whole census thing is the fact we are still identifying ourselves by genetic makeup.  I was taught in school that present-day humans were scientifically named Homo sapiens sapiens.  I can dig scientists because they are the ultimate administrators, organizing, cataloguing and counting the whole universe.  So I’m perfectly happy just being a human.  But here it is the 21st Century in the most advanced nation on this planet and we still insist on dividing ourselves up by the color of our skin.  We can’t just be humans, or even just Americans.  We have to be German-Americans, African-Americans, Asian-Americans, Mexican-Americans or Whatever-Americans.

The world has been turned on its ear since the USA elected an African-American President, conveniently forgetting that he’s half Caucasian, which could make him Africasian-American or Caufrican-American but let’s not get too silly just yet.  There are people out there that voted for him just because of his mocha latte skin.  Just as there are people out there who voted against him for the same reason.  Neither group made their decision based on what he stood for, what he said, what his record was, what his plan was or how well he did or didn’t speak.  They just marked their ballot because of a color.  And there is a segment of the populace out there that carries a newly superior attitude because “the man” is now black.  I think we all just need to get over it, as we’ve obviously missed the point.

Segregation and discrimination still exist because we still insist on pointing out the differences instead of focusing on the similarities.  Different doesn’t mean wrong or bad.  Racial, religious, “tribal” hatreds are taught, learned by children from their elders, and we are still teaching our children those same prejudices now.  Affirmative action was a good idea in its day, but it has become an albatross that is now only perpetuating the very problems it was trying to fix.  Different racial groups are held to different standards for entry exams to the military, police, fire fighters, universities and other positions.  Where a Caucasian male may have to meet a score of 95 to “pass” certain tests, a Hispanic woman only needs a 75.  A weighted formula was necessary to open the doors in the 60’s, but they are long  blown off their hinges, so it’s time to get ourselves away from the lowest common denominator and start going for the best person for the job, period.  Set a standard, one, uno, single, and everyone who meets that standard is eligible.  I don’t know about you, but I want the absolute best to be protecting my community, advancing my technology, and teaching my children.  After the American people decided the best person to be our next President was a constitutional law professor from Illinois, I don’t think we have any more excuses.

So I could be a German-Swedish-Dutch-Castilian Spanish-Choctaw-Wiccan-Mac using-night person-Democrat-married-woman-over 40-American.  Or I could just be human.

Someday, being human just may be the most important thing you could be.

© 2010  Cheri K. Endsley.  All Rights Reserved.

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