A monthly column of wit, insight, irreverance and inspiration
by a published author and veteran of the publishing trenches.
The Ink-Stained Wretch
It began like so many things do, with me waking up. I yawned, and went back to sleep, of course, but that's of little matter here. What's important is that eventually I woke again and when I stumbled to my desk I learned the tragic truth: my monitor had gasped its last.
Yes, citizens, I was screenless. I played with it a bit, being something of a techie type, but when repeated kicks, curses, and hammerings came to nought, I faced the facts. I had no tube, no page, no tool.
I packed that sucker up and took it to the shop where I learned the price and delay in repair were both beyond my reach. I would need to buy a new one. But, here's the kicker. I could not afford a new one just then. End of school years bring all sorts of new and horrible expenses: choir camp, graduation gifts, book replacement, bail. I had to wait.
Okay, I thought. I can wait a few weeks. I'll just use something else. After all, Mark Twain never had a computer. Eudora Welty never had a computer. I smirked and grabbed a spiral notebook and a ballpoint pen and went to work. My hand hovered over the page. Just work those muscles, I thought. It's like riding a bike.
Okay, doodle, then. Just let something flow. I drew a crippled horse under which appeared words! Real words! I was writing again! (I would like to point out I have used more exclamation points in this one article than I have used heretofore in my entire career as a writer. Don't try this at home.) Who needs modern technology? This is what I wrote.
"I wonder what I'm missing in email?"
(As it happens, among the things I was missing: frantic msgs from Doris asking, "Where's your column, you skunk?" Goddamn you, Eudora.)
Then I made a little list. When in doubt make a list, they always say. It looked like this:
Things on my computer I cannot get now because I don't have a goddamned monitor:
1- Twelve novels I'm pretty sure I backed up because I hid the back-ups with a neighbor in case of fire.
a)Note to self: That neighbor moved last year.
2- Two novels I meant to back-up.
3- Five promising starts I'm pretty sure I have not backed up.
4- Countless articles, notes, poems, etc. that exist IN NO OTHER PLACE THAN MY HARD DRIVE!
I began to tremble. Intellectually, I knew it was all still there, safe in that squatty little box, but what if it wasn't? Maybe the monitor blew out because the squatty little box had a short or something. If my writings weren't safe in there I was ruined. Bereft. A decade of work gone. Think what it would mean to my career? To my eventual biographer?
Maybe a different list. Okay. I started again.
Things I can write without my computer. 1- This list 2- Nothing else
And it was true. I couldn't write without it. I was spoiled, lazy. I had changed. As a young man I could write anywhere, using anything. No more. Now I was automatized by our nasty, fin de siecle culture in which some ninety percent of people can read a word like "automatized" and think it's perfectly okay as a word. I had become a hopeless techno-geek. My writing was now confined to a given posture, shoulders hunched over keyboard, hands taloned over keys, eyes glazed and dead, mouth slack, face bathed in the glow of a CRT. Twain? To hell with him. Twain can kiss my ass; give me my Mac!
What could I do? There were no typewriters anywhere. Pen and paper was a boy's foolish dream. I was enslaved by the computer. I ran, screaming from my house like a tapeworm fleeing the intestine of a Supermodel. I needed nourishment. And I needed it right away.
There were then a few sordid public incidents followed by some quiet time…
All is hunky-dory now. I've got a new monitor the size of Nebraska looming over me. Twenty-one gorgeous Mitsubishi Diamond Scan inches. You haven't seen a porn site until you've…well, no sense in sharing everything. Anyhow, I can write again. Not well, mind you. Just again.
And once I verified that all my stuff was indeed where I left it, I backed it up like a good boy. Then I made myself a little to-do list. It only has one item on it:
1- Buy a typewriter.