Miteypen Types

I travel the net as miteypen and have ever since I got my first computer (and my first Internet account) in 1996. I actually had a (so-called) business named “The Mighty Pen,” but there are so many references to the mighty pen out there (and not just in cyberspace), that I decided to rename it “miteypen” and be done with it. Miteypen is easier to type, too, and not just because it’s shorter. I hate having to type words with “gh” in them. For instance, Light, Might and even words like Through and Although. There are more difficult words to type–the worst I’ve run across for its length being Egypt. There is a “yp” in miteypen but no “g” so I can live with that.

I may seem to be picky, but the way I type (there’s another one), I have to be. I am not a “hunt-and-pecker” (now that didn’t come out right), but I am a “looker” (neither did that). That is, for the most part I don’t have to hunt for keys one by one and then peck at them (although I have yet to achieve proficiency with the numbers and anything around the edges) but I do have to look an awful lot, if not at the keyboard, then at the screen. I suppose most people look at the screen, but I am one who shouldn’t. I do my best typing when I stare off into space and try to visualize the keyboard. I make mistakes whenI don’t have my fingers in the right position to start with (which happens a lot) or when I don’t reach far enough so that words come out like this: cisualise, finders, but the average spell-checker can usually handle mistakes like that. (I just tried it and I was wrong: cisualize stumped it completely and it skipped right over finders. Oh, what did we ever do without spell-checkers?)

Why is this interesting? It’s not really, except in the sense that most writers struggle at least at first with this problem. I am much faster than I used to be, but I could never get a job as a secretary. But then I don’t want one, so that works out okay. It would be nice, though, if I could type more quickly (words with “q” in them are also a pain).

I have experimented with talk and type programs (where the computer types for you as you speak–and electronic dictaphone, so to speak), but so far haven’t found one that was easy to use. You usually have to train them to recognize your voice, accent and all. And that can take some time, depending on the software. One I found that works really well is called WYNN, but it costs around a thousand dollars (and does a lot of other things, too), so I guess I’ll bumble on the way I’ve been going. If and when I find a good program, I’ll let you know.

Anything to make word processing more “processible.” (See a coming post about making up words.)

Becoming A Writer

It has taken two years for me to finally get to the point: that this is a writer’s blog. I’ve been using this space like a journal, meaning that it has only been interesting to me. So what’s the difference now?

I’ve been telling myself that I’m a writer for years. I found that I had to do that: tell myself over and over that I do qualify. And how do I know that? It’s not as if I have very much published–and when I first starting announcing my “writerhood” I hadn’t published anything. Part of my motivation was psychological. I figured if I called myself a writer long enough, I might actually come to believe that I am. It worked, to a degree. But there is no such thing as suddenly becoming anything, from one’s work identity to one’s gender. (Seriously. Think about it. Have you always known exactly what it means for you to be the sex you are, let alone how to act like it?) And the worst (or best) part is that the process is never complete. I suspect I’ll be talking myself into believing that I’m a writer–among other things– until the day I die.

Two things have made the process speed up for me in the past two years. One has been going back to school and the other has been taking writing courses (I’m now on my second one.) Just being in school means that you’re going to be writing, and the better your writing, the better your grade (assuming that you know what you’re writing about). I’ve had to sweat buckets trying to improve especially the clarity of my writing. Philosophical musings (otherwise know as bullsh**ing) don’t impress teachers who just want to see that you’ve “mastered” the information. Damn!

Ironically enough, choosing history as a major may well have caused my writing to improve more than English/Creative Writing would have. It can be much harder to write about history in an interesting way than to write about many other fields in the humanities. At least I’ve found that to be the case. But having to do so has sharpened my writing ability and that has carried over into my creative writing (I hope).

In a way, I’m glad I didn’t take a writing class until after I’d improved my writing of history. Yet I can see now that I needed to take a writing class at some point to learn something else about myself: that other writers think I’m a writer. They may be a writer’s harshest critics, but it’s good to know that their standards are the same ones you want to meet and that you feel you must meet in order to feel like a real writer.

It could be that the writing course, besides teaching me more about how to write, has also served as a way to encourage me. A’s and B’s in history don’t necessarily tell me that I am a Writer. Sometimes my good writing isn’t even recognized (although I admit that it was a thrill to have one teacher tell me that my writing was “clear, concise and almost lyrical”). But there’s something special about another writer telling you that your work is good. And I have a feeling that I will never stop needing that kind of encouragement.

I have never sought it out before. I’ve never joined a writing group (online or in “real” life) and it has only been in the past year that I’ve exposed myself to other writers’ scrutiny. Since I figure that they would be hardest on my writing than anyone else (which is probably the main reason I never subjected myself to the experience before), it means all that much more when they praise it. It doesn’t even have to be effusive praise!

The bottom line is, however, that the only fool-proof way to become a writer is to write. A lot. Which is why I’m here right now, spilling my thoughts (guts?) on the Internet. I doubt that anyone else will ever read them, but it does me a lot of good to write as if I think someone will. After all, you never know…

Writing About Ourselves: Up Close and Personal

What about writing about ourselves? How personal do we want to get? What is the fall-out if we do?

These questions are almost a moot point for me: it seems that I just naturally spill my guts. My writing often reveals more about myself than I would be comfortable telling an acquaintance or a casual friend. So why am I willing to share my secrets with total strangers?

I don’t think I’m alone in this. What makes us bare our souls in print where anyone can read it when we would be extremely hesitant to do so in any other context? As for me, when I write, I reveal; I can’t seem to help it. It’s as if the pen or keyboard is a confessional or a psychiatrist’s couch. Want to know how many times I’ve been married, what my social class and income are, whether I believe in God, the mistakes I’ve made (and paid for)? Just hang around and keep on reading and you will eventually know me better than my own parents or children do.

But is it wise to be so revealing? What does it cost us emotionally and socially? Do readers really want to know about our inner demons and private joys or will they get tired of hearing more than they want to know about us?

Of course it depends upon what we’re writing and the context in which we’re being read. But I have a theory that people are willing and even eager to learn what makes a writer tick. Writing is a mysterious act, even to writers. Some readers feel that writers are bigger than life and more than human. (There are many more who think that anyone could write if they wanted to, so what’s the big deal?) The words seem to float in space, in some kind of intellectual miasma, where only the writers really know what they mean or why what they have to say should matter. To some, personal essays are as difficult to access as poetry: not knowing where the writer comes from makes it almost impossible for the reader to understand what the writer wants to say. And yet, if we are not willing to reveal something of ourselves in our writing, our words may never connect with our readers.

But to what extent and at what cost? That depends on the writer. I recently wrote a piece that was quite explicit about a chronic problem I have (no, I’m not going to reveal it here, or at least not now). In fact, it was more revealing than was probably appropriate considering the topic and context. (It was the first assignment in a creative nonfiction writing course.} I dashed mine off pretty quickly (two revisions, and that was mainly to cut down the length), but was left with emotional fall-out to the point where I was afraid that I would get emotional when I read it out loud (in other words, cry). I should have thought of that when I wrote the piece, should have made sure I kept it lighter and less personal. But maybe what I wrote was what I needed to reveal, and not trusting my instincts kept me from sharing it with people with whom I’m going to be working closely over the next three months. (I skipped the class.)

I don’t exactly regret that I missed this opportunity; I know there will be others. What concerned me the most was the way I was affected by what I wrote. All that day and the next I was emotionally raw and exhausted. And that was over a simple little writing exercise. Sometimes I wonder if I’m going to be able to keep this up. Other times I know that I have no choice.