My Life is a Computer Monitor

Do you ever feel like a like a strange sort of blogosphere celebrity when you show up in someone else’s blog one day?

Blogger and writer Janna G. Noelle (whose blog, The Rules of Engagement, is quite insightful about the art and craft of writing) has been doing a series on the daily distractions that writers not named Stephenie Meyer or James Patterson have to deal with as they pursue their dreams of publication.

I had commented to her that my biggest problem is the amount of time I spend staring at a computer monitor because of my job. 40+ hours per week hunched over a keyboard can throw baking soda on one’s creativity when one’s creative outlet also requires being hunched over a keyboard.

Janna devoted a whole post to the subject (and she doesn’t half-ass her posts*), which made me feel famous for some reason. Anyway, enough of my delusions… She came up with two clever ideas to address my excessive amounts of computer face time, which are:

1. Hand write my fiction.

This is genius in its simplicity. When I was much younger, I used to hand write all my stories, and it’s nothing like looking at a monitor. I’d say it’s a different experience entirely, and whatever I write wouldn’t be the same because of it.

Unfortunately, as awesome as this idea is, it probably won’t work for me for a couple of reasons. One is that I write at a furious pace and, because I have damaged joints from 29 years of drumming, my pencil-holding claw will ache fiercely within a few minutes. This problem will reach tragic proportions when I finally write that massive blockbuster and 1000 people show up at my book signings. Is it possible to email my signature to their Kindle devices? Can I give out stickers?

The other concern with this is that I am not a plotter, which means I often write whole chapters I will never use, or I have to move big chunks of scenes around. And I frequently find-and-replace character names I had to change. You get the drift.

I still think Janna’s idea to hand write terrific. So was this one:

2. Change my settings so my home monitor does not resemble my work monitor

This option is more practical for me, though I’m a bit technologically impaired, so I’ve got to figure out how to make MS Word give me pale blue or green pages instead of white ones. I never have to do that at work, so I’ve never figured out how.

I could also try to use the TV as a monitor so it’s not so close to my face. The viewing distance is the biggest headache, I believe. One can only stand looking at something 18 inches away for so long. I feel bad for the monks who made those illuminated manuscripts back in the medieval times. Or were they friars? No, that can’t be. I learned in Canterbury Tales that friars are a bunch of buttheads.

Since Janna posted her piece, I’ve been thinking about what else I can do (and already do) to deal with the computer monitor being an unavoidable part of my livelihood and my art. For example:

A. At work, I’ve been initiating or getting involved in a lot of projects that get me away from the desk.

B. I’ve been buffering my work time and my personal writing time with music. If you scroll back a post or two, you know that I like to noodle around on the guitar and write songs. Jamming for 45 minutes can often serve to reboot my creativity, since playing guitar stimulates a different part of my brain.

C. I got a story idea. When I talked to Janna about my conundrum, I had just completed the eight-millionth draft of a 10k word novelette and felt pretty burnt out (and bummed that it is probably unpublishable). Then, the other day, three words randomly popped into my head, and I instantly knew they were going to be the first three words of my next story. I started writing it two days ago, and, as I’m sure you can all relate, once you get that fire started, nothing is putting it out until you type The End.

So thanks, Janna, for getting me thinking.

And thanks, those of you reading this, for allowing me to prattle on about myself for 700 words. I’ll try to make it more about you next time. I swear!


*go ahead. Somebody male a “whole-ass” joke. You know you want to.

9 responses to “My Life is a Computer Monitor

  • Janna G. Noelle

    Ha, now I feel like a celebrity. You even tagged your post after me; that’s a clear sign that you’ve made it. 🙂

    I really enjoyed reading this. I had a funny mental image of you cutting out extra chapters with a pair of scissors (I guess that’s how the cut and paste functions got their names), but your email Kindle signature remark made me wonder. How will we get our favourite novels signed once the digital hostile takeover is complete?

    I liked your idea of using the TV as a monitor. I would totally try if I still had a TV. It’s great that you’re able to take on non-computer-based tasks at work, and buffering the two phases of your day is definitely a good idea. I find that my half-hour bike ride home helps me with that.

    Great post. Very amusing.:)

    • ericjbaker

      Congratulations! You are a tag. It’s not quite as exciting as a book contract, but I still think you should put it on your resume.

      It’s funny, but I almost worked in gag about using a pair of scissors to move my handwritten text around, but it didn’t fit the flow. Great minds think alike.

  • nrhatch

    Now you’ve both shined the spotlight on the other . . . doubling the reach of each!

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  • Bryan Edmondson

    You are a celebrity Eric, I have always thought that about you. I would love to have your autograph. I would even stand in a long line at a book store just to have you sign my book. But I think if I saw you sign it with that “claw for a hand,” I would just shudder, take my book, and let you just keep my pen.

    Happy Thanksgiving.

  • jldegarie

    Eric, I have the same problem. I work 40+ hours a week, most of it on a computer, and as a part owner of the business, I can even spend more time when we get busy and projects have to get completed and out the door. Sometimes I come home and have *no* interest in doing anything creative at all.

    I like Janna’s idea of changing the computer monitor to look different. That might help. I couldn’t try the writing longhand, either, as I find it frustratingly slow compared to typing.

    As a side note, though, I find the biggest impediment to my writing is…the Internet. I’ve actually completely disconnected my home desktop from the Internet, and I get the most done when I work on that computer.

    • ericjbaker

      The Internet is so tempting isn’t it? Instead of buying one nice computer, I bought two cheaps ones… one for daily use, working, blogging, the other for story writing. As in your case, the latter has no internet connection (it’s so cheap, it’s not wi-fi compatable).

      Short of changing careers, which is an easy thing to do by choice these days, I guess we just have to show discipline.

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