Best Tweet ever

On my desk is a wooden pen holder which holds no pens. I keep it there because of the shape it’s carved into: “WRITE.” I’m going to print out my new all-time favorite Tweet, from Roger Ebert tonight, onto a little sign and stand it up in the pen holder, because it’s the most true fact about writing:

The Muse visits while you are writing, not before.

Far more than 1,000 words

Unspeakable

More than any other I’ve seen from the Gulf, this photo from the Guardian captures for me the magnitude of the disaster BP has wrought. It’s not just the random oil-soaked pelicans or the dead crabs on the beaches or the tar balls clumping in the marshes. This stuff permeates vast expanses of water. We’ve not even begun to grasp the ultimate consequences.

(Click here to see the full-size photo.)

On living in an alternate reality

Writing fiction is such a strange process.

I’ve read plenty of articles and books about writing fiction by fiction writers. They almost all talk about that moment when you’re writing when your characters take over the story from you and do what they need to do, so I was at least prepared intellectually for something of the sort to happen.

What I wasn’t prepared for was how much my fictional world would take over my consciousness. Sure, the characters gradually began to seem autonomous, but I figure that’s just because I’ve gotten to know them so well that the way they behave in any given situation becomes so obvious—even inevitable—that I don’t have to consciously think about it. I just have to write it down as it happens.

But more than that, my fictional world takes over my whole consciousness. When I’m seriously into the writing, it’s even better than reading an engrossing book—my fictional world becomes the universe my mind inhabits. Having to stop for mundane matters like meals and letting the dog out and paying bills and making sure my joints and muscles can still move is disorienting.

It’s rather like watching Richard Burton on stage in Camelot years ago in the scene in the second act where everything’s falling apart and Arthur escapes to the forest and recalls his boyhood when he was transformed by Merlin into a hawk and soared over the world. Burton barely moved, with his arms hanging down at his sides, but somehow, we the audience were transported, flying there with him, tilting on the breezes, wanting it to go on forever. Then Mordred spoke, and it was as though we all were shot out of the sky and crashed to the ground together.

That’s how it feels to stop writing and return to real life. My fictional world takes over my brain. When I have to take a break from it, I can’t wait to get back to what almost feels like a world more real than reality.

And yet, at the same time, I can’t wait to be free of it, to reach the stage that it will let me go, let me fully back into my real world again, to something that feels relatively normal.

It’s a peculiar sort of induced insanity.

OK, maybe just one more cool app before I get back to work

When my iPad came, my friend Dianna said, “And we’ll never hear from her again.” (She has one, too, so she knows.)

I keep meaning not to check the App Store or Engadget or TUAW to see if there are any more nifty apps I should add, but somehow I always manage to ignore the plaintive call of my current book draft. Somehow there is always another app I absolutely, positively must have—and then, of course, I have to play around with it for a while, just to rationalize having downloaded it.

My app mania does seem to be subsiding, though. I think I’ve got pretty much all I need (for the time being, at least). Weirdly, part of what’s letting me get back into my normal routine is the last app I bought: Instapaper Pro.

Why didn't I ever find Instapaper before?

I can’t believe I never got around to checking out Instapaper before I got the iPad. You see, I’ve always been a fan of good nonfiction writing, but more and more recently, I’ve found that I just don’t read long articles on the web through to the end. Maybe, I thought, it was my deteriorating vision or even that shortening of the attention span that technology doomsayers lament.

It turns out, though, that I’m just irritated by the time it takes to stop and load the next page of a multipage article. (I have the same problem with eInk devices like the Kindle—the time it takes for each page to load is just long enough to be distracting.) Instapaper does away with all that—when I find a long article I want to read later, all I have to do is click on the “Read Later” bookmarklet in my browser’s bookmark bar, and Instapaper concatenates all the pages into one long file and saves it to my Instapaper app. (It also saves it to my account at the Instapaper website, so it’s not iPad dependent at all.) It’s been lovely rediscovering how much I enjoy reading long-form articles free of all that web-distraction.

And that focused feeling I get reading in Instapaper actually puts me in the mood to get seriously down to work. How can I argue with that?