Tempus fugit, et non comebackibus.
Categorised as: Typecasting
I’d guess the medium also drives your writing style. As a copywriter, I rarely write more than a couple hundred words at a time, so I evolved an edit-while-you-write style. I even adopted the Emacs text editor navigation keys so I can edit quickly — without using those spawn-of-satan cursor keys.
Those who write longer pieces (these days that’s mostly self-published novelists and conspiracy theorists) probably just want to get it all down.
It’s irritating to see the firehose method pushed on newbie writers as if four out five dentists agreed it was The One True Path. Writing should involve thinking (we’re not channeling dead poets after all), and it’s hard to think if your fingers won’t stop moving.
…it’s hard to think if your fingers won’t stop moving. Amen.
What bugs me, as you say, is that people who should really know better are peddling this poop on novices. It’s right up there with nuns whacking knuckles with rulers for writing left-handed. We’ll never know how many people have gotten turned off to writing because of it.
If I was one of those conspiracy theorists, I’d argue that this is really evidence of a gigantic false-flag operation by Big Publishing to systematically eradicate the slush pile.
But I’m not saying that’s what it is. Nope. Not at all.
What bugs me, as you say, is that people who should really know better are peddling this poop on novices.
After email, I think peddling “poop” to wannabe writers is actually the Internet’s Killer App. I might go so far as to suggest more money changes hands in the writer self-help market than it does in the writer “writes for money” market.
In other words, mining the miners, not the gold.
I agree with you and Liebling: to each his own. But I personally did find it liberating, when I tried NaNoWriMo 2010, to sit at a typewriter and keep moving forward, without too many second thoughts (not to mention online distractions). I’m not sure I could have “won” using a computer.
NaNoWriMo is probably one of the best arguments you could make for the “right tool for the job” premise — since the contest is specifically designed for getting maximum wordage down on paper as quickly as possible, you’d naturally want the tool that makes it the hardest not to do that. Typewriters are the perfect choice — no delete key. No going back. It reminds me of that great line from The Hunt for Red October:
When he reached the new world, Cortez burned his ships. As a result, his men were well motivated.
I think NaNoWriMo should give special “Iron Writer” awards to people who win using typewriters. You guys are the top of the pyramid.
Winner, NaNoWriMo Heavy Metal Division
Typewriters are the perfect choice — no delete key. No going back.
I started my writing career on a typewriter. The first draft is fine. It’s the rewrites that lead to madness.
I just had this flash of an idea: a text editor that uses a text-based “editing language.” Say, for example, typing “delwd” “delsent” and “delpar” would let you delete the last word, sentence, or paragraph without having to go into control or arrow keys.
It was the grooviest delwd best of times . . .
We hold these truths to be like duh del2wd self evident.
And the text editor would automatically read the “del2wd” and go back and delete “like duh” for you (and the “del2wd,” of course) while you keep on typing.
Obviously these are just quickie examples, and the triggers are obviously pretty clunky (“d2w” or even “dww” would probably be way more efficient than “del2wd,” for example). You’d need to map out the most common editing actions and assign memorable and simple keyword triggers for them (or perhaps even let the users substitute their own custom triggers — though that would probably inhibit its widespread adoption as a “language” a la Markdown).
With an editing language, you’d always be “writing forward.” It has the potential to blend writing and editing into a single act.
Yeah, we could probably come up with a truckload of arguments against the practicality of an editing language, but considering how many writers have routinely incorporated text expansion shortcuts, Markdown tags, etc into our workflow, what’s another set of functional writing hieroglyphics?
I think there’s something to this, I just don’t know what yet.
P.S. — I ran this idea by Mrs. Sotto Voce, who immediately grokked it and pointed out that this might also lend itself to macros. I can also see this as a third-party app that runs no matter what editor you’re using, like say Text Expander.
So I’ve run this idea by several veteran editor colleagues to see if anything like this has ever proposed before, and the responses have ranged from mokusatsu to “what have you been smoking?”
Which just serves to get my French-Canadian up, and convinces me that I must be really on to something here. Because if there really was nothing to it, they would have engaged me with some constructive refutation, i.e., behaved like editors.
So I’m going to work the idea into something more along the lines of a proposal and give it some space here on SV.
There are times when an air of superiority is called for. And I believe this is one of those moments.
I get what you’re driving at, though my smug nature propriety compels me to point out that those of us using Emacs-style keyboard navigation in programmer’s text editors get all the delete characters/words/lines/paragraphs forward/backward/sideways stuff with one keystroke, and if you’ve done THE RIGHT THING and remapped your useless Capslock key to a Control key, it doesn’t even remove your fingers from the home row.
Still, if your goal is to launch jihad against the use of cursor keys — an invention so foul, only Torquemada could find them interesting — I’m on board.
I’ll be the smug guy sitting in the back.
I think it was your comment about Emacs that was the catalyst for this crazy idea, so I blame you bow deferentially in the direction of the mountain upon which you reside like an editorial Zeus atop Olympus.
I’m looking for a complete list of Emacs editing commands that I could use for constructing the markup vocabulary. Is this list complete? Are there other editing commands that you use?
And yes, one of the goals of this editing markup language is that it would be totally alphanumerically driven. Certainly no cursor keys, and no command / function / option keys either. Nothing that takes you out of the writing.
That list looks incldues most of the basics, but this is far more complete. It includes goodies like case conversion and other power toys that save me a lot of time in the Intertubes era.
Idon’t use Emacs as much as Sublime Text these days, but that’s only becaue Sublime Text let me easily remap its keyboard to match Emacs (as does the Firemacs pluging in Firefox).
Otherwise, Sublime Text is easier and the package control is wonderful (I can add all sorts of Markdown functionality).
I still hope to fire off a screencast/voiceover video someday that explains the benefits of the workflow in more (ahem) graphic terms.
Thanks for the link. This discussion is great, it’s helping me focus my goals and objectives. I think what I’m going to end up with is a set of macros or scripts that mimic Emacs editing functions using plain-language triggers.
I’m a huge user of TextExpander in my daily work, and I’ve downloaded an Emacs fork for Mac called Aquamacs that looks pretty good. I think I’m going to start by:
. . . and see what I get. It’s a quick-and-dirty way to test-drive the basic functionality to see if there’s anything to this wacky obsession of mine.
So if someone rewrites Sublime Text for another OS, would that make it a Sublime Port? (*rimshot*)
I don’t think Aquamacs is seeing the same development that Emacs is, but you’re on your own with that one.
And lest you think you’ve scored some kind of minor triumph with your Sublime pun, I hasten to point out it’s already available on Mac, Windows and Linux. Port that, retro boy.
Oh yea. I don’t think you’ll be able to do much without some kind of control key command set, but you know, good luck.
That sounds like more of a Vim trick; you can navigate from home-row keys, but you have to switch between modes to do so.
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