May 2, 2012

Confessions of a Notepad user

Posted in thoughts, writing at 10:28 am by z. l. sasnett

Trust the instinct to the end, though you can render no reason. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

New blog title. Swimming along in the sea of blogs, I’m still trying to find my way. Title may change again, who’s to say? For now, I like it. It was inspired by the title of this post, which was inspired by a revelation I had while in the shower. I always have my biggest revelations either in the shower or while doing the dishes. Must have something to do with hot water and soapy hands.

My most prolific time writing, way back in the day, was with fanfiction. When I was involved in fandoms, fanfiction (and fanart, but I’m not an artist which makes me sad) was one of the ways to contribute. I rarely posted my fanfiction anywhere. Eh…every so often I would but that wasn’t the point of me writing fanfiction. I’m not sure there was one except the fandom canon excited me and I wanted to continue the stories. I simply didn’t share them with anyone.

This isn’t to talk about fanfiction, though. This is to talk about something, a fundamental something I had forgotten and it only occurred to me while I was in the shower thinking about a completely unrelated WIP that involves pool boys, but I digress. 

Now that I’m trying to be a Big Time Serious Writer, I’m stumbling over my own feet; over my own good intentions. All the theory discussion in the world —  which I find interesting and stimulating and inspiring — can’t beat good ol’ fashioned ‘get it done’. Nothing to dissect, nothing to discuss if I haven’t written anything, right?

And I love to write. I do! It gives me great pleasure and I think I’m reasonably good at it. Time will tell, I suppose, but still!  (I think I’ve used up my allotment of exclamation points now. As well as my use of parenthetical asides.) So why is it, when I sit down to write all these fit-to-burstin’ ideas that set me on fire when I think about them, suddenly I feel overwhelmed and daunted? We can talk psychology all day and it might render something useful. What fell out during my neurotic musings was something I used to do in fandom when I was writing so gleefully.

I wasn’t intimidated by the white page when I wrote fanfiction. Why am I now? What is different now? I mean, other than the pressure to produce. I think I’m managing that quite nicely, except for the occasional blip which may be the topic of another post.

It’s because MS Word does two things to my perception:

  1. It fills up the space on my computer screen. Fills it right up with all its bells and whistles for formatting and functionality that I may never use in my lifetime, sitting there looking all pretty. So there it is, mocking me with that blank screen and flashing cursor.
  2. It cuts me off visually from the rest of the world via the internet. I know it’s there, in the background and that bothers me. It just does. I have to actively work to switch to check emails or look up something fast on the internet. And then while I’m there…I’ll just go check on… and down goes my productivity because I’m too busy trying to reconnect. Fear? Probably. I won’t look too closely at it.

My fondest memories of writing with abandon involve the regular use of Notepad; the basic text program that comes with all computers these days, at least on the PC. I had a favorite size I would make the little white text box, put on my favorite music and write. Words poured out and splashed on the keyboard. Thousands of them, flying uncensored from my fingertips with no regard to editing or spelling or grammar. Editing came when I reached The End and I CnP to Word. Not before. No getting sidetracked to italicize or bold, indent or tab. Blocks of writing with no formatting.


With the text box in an unintimidating size, I could see around it. I remembered there was a world *gestures vaguely* out there and that I wasn’t disconnected. Funnily enough, I felt less of a compulsive need to surf, check emails, read up on blogs because I had the visual reminder ‘it’s all right there where you left it and it’s not going anywhere’. I felt better, I breathed easier and focused on what I was doing.


My revelation in the shower? Why am I not using Notepad now? While there may (and will) be more obstacles in my path on the writing journey, why not make this part of it easier since it’s something I can control?

Maybe it’s the writer mystique. The writer, hunched over their keyboard, pounding out their words and filling a blank page with their genius. Formless was given form, and it was good. Visually, I like clutter. Not trash, not garbage, but I like having all my stuff within reach. Makes me feel safe. Frees me up creatively.

MS Word blocks that from me. Notepad gives it back.

Psychology at work, I guess.


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