Sixteen Hundred Words

While tidying the study this evening, I looked at the games console and flat-screen television that have been taking up the desk in the corner, and that haven’t so much as been powered up for the last several weeks, and decided to do something rather drastic.

After several trips to the attic – precariously climbing the stepladder while holding games machines, controllers, and a flat-screen television, I returned back to the landing with a piece of computer history – an Apple iMac from the early 2000s.

I would love to say the iMac had been mine for all those years, but it was actually bought on eBay, from a school selling off hardware from a long-forgotten storage cupboard. Given it’s pristine condition, I very much doubt it was ever used – aside from a single scratch, it looks like it was unboxed yesterday. I’m still not entirely sure why I bought it.

The iMac is kind of famous in computing history – it marked the return of Steve Jobs to Apple after being fired some years earlier. It also marked the beginning of the collaboration with Jonathan Ive – the guy that has dominated Apple product design for the last twenty years. I still remember visiting my cousin in California back in 2001, and seeing the Apple iMac adverts hanging over the highway through the Marin headlands north of San Francisco. I also remember the first time I saw one “in the wild” – on the reception desk of a design company my brother worked for.

After an hour of re-organising the room, the corner of the room had been turned into a writing nook of sorts. Aided by some really very strong anti-bacterial agents (Miss 13 tends to eat here while waiting for her school transport on a morning), and throwing quite a number of things away, I ended up with a clear desk, an angle-poise lamp, the iMac, a ZIP drive, and a pen tidy. I even discovered a “Procrastinator” pad, that now sits alongside the keyboard, waiting to be doodled all over.

It’s funny really – the attraction of using the iMac is that the internet doesn’t really work properly on it – it predates a lot of the modern SSL encryption algorithms, meaning it can’t connect securely to anything – so rather than go noodling off across the internet, instead I have put a pad of paper next to it that is expressly designed to help you procrastinate. I really am my own worse enemy.

Another funny thing – when I sat down earlier, I wondered how many words I could write in an hour – with half a view on NaNoWriMo (the idiotic race to write fifty thousand words during November) – and have managed to only write a few hundred. Hardly the sixteen hundred per day needed to get to fifty thousand. Of course it would have helped had I not messed around with Scrivener, made a cup of tea, and done a number of other things – none of which needed doing.

Oh yes – Scrivener. I’m using an old copy of Scrivener on the Mac. I bought it back when I owned a Macbook, in 2007 – back in those impressionable days when I thought using a Mac might magically bestow writerly talent on me (har har). It’s a bit like the Moleskine of the computer world, really isn’t it – or people who drive 4x4s that were never designed to go off-road, and will never go anywhere near much more than a muddy puddle.

More by luck than judgement, there was an old version of Scrivener available that quite happily runs on this dinosaur of an iMac. We’ll gloss over the fact that it’s incompatible with modern versions of Scrivener, and that I can’t easily save to any sort of online facility to backup my writing. That’s where the ZIP drive comes in.

ZIP drives are a curiosity of the late 1990s. As a door-step is to a normal sandwich, a ZIP disk is to a floppy disk – storing somewhere in the region of seventy times more data. I imagine anybody under the age of thirty will never have seen a floppy disk, let alone a ZIP disk. I’ll be saving my writing to ZIP disks. If I can be bothered, I might figure out how to use FTP on the Mac – but then that means setting up an FTP server. I have to draw the line somewhere.

So! I have a quiet corner of the house with a computer that’s only really of any use for writing. Getting words off it is going to be a bit of an ordeal, but then I’m guessing USB sticks will still work. I’ll figure something out – there’s still 10 days until the madness of NaNoWriMo descends.

While standing on the touchline of a rugby pitch earlier today, I started thinking through exactly what I might fill blog posts with throughout November – how I could extend them to triple their normal length. Perhaps all I really need to do is go into each day with my eyes open, and perhaps keep notes on things that happen along the way – cars that try to run me over – school-run Mums on a mission to make it to their trophy-mum coffee morning after dropping Tabatha and Giles off at the school they were tutored to within an inch of their lives to get into. If I had enough nerve I might describe the characters I work with – perhaps give each of them a pseudonym. Perhaps not. I don’t want to become another Dooce, or Petite Anglaise (although that being said, her run-in with management after describing them in her blog was pretty brilliant for blog traffic – but the tabloid mayhem that followed perhaps less so).

I have never really decided if having the blog named after me is a good idea or not. It seems vain, but then helps with discovery. If I should ever write anything worth reading, it makes sense that it is easy to find – that my name should be easy to find. If you google my full name, you find page after page of marketing drivel about the owner of a yacht company – the balding gentleman smiling in all the photos obviously has no such qualms about vanity, or exposure.

The irony is not lost on me that the entire reason for publishing a blog is to be discovered – by at least a few people. Maybe not millions – that would be somewhat difficult to deal with. I only follow twenty or thirty blogs as it is – imagine getting home from work to discover a few thousand emails sitting in your in-box.

Note to self – don’t get famous through the blog.

You would think – given how many years I have been writing a blog for, that I would have run out of things to say. The truth is that sometimes I really do struggle to think of anything – as I have just recently. But I also know that those times will pass, and before long I’ll find myself sitting here with words flying out of my fingers, and all sorts of ideas, observations, memories, and thoughts spilling out. It’s all a tremendous mystery to me. I think perhaps the secret is just to keep writing – as instructed by the Sean Connery character in “Finding Forrester”. He puts a typewriter on the table in front of a young writer, and tells him to write. I think that’s perhaps why NaNoWriMo has always appealed to me – while a lot of the words written during November will be junk, occasionally a few good ones will come out. Maybe more than a few – but unless you try and write them, you’ll never know.

Ten days to go. Ten days until I begin burning the midnight oil – telling all manner of stories about my days. Thankfully at least a part of the month will take me to Germany once again, which always provides stories. All I really need to do is frequent a few bars and watch life happen around me – then scamper back to the hotel and start furiously typing like a madman. It just occurred to me that I won’t be dragging the iMac to Germany with me. I only just managed to lug it down the stairs, let alone hiding it in my suitcase.

Maybe in-line with the iMac idiocy, I should try to use as many madcap methods of writing posts as possible during the month. It will at least give me something to write about if life in general comes up short. I’ve written posts on the Amazon Fire tablet in the past – with a bluetooth keyboard. It works surprisingly well, and almost always causes curious stares from those nearby.

Heh – while writing this I keep glancing at the word count. We’re nearing sixteen hundred words. So this is what it’s going to take during November – this is the length that will get me over the finish line. It’s going to drive everybody insane, isn’t it. I can’t imagine I’ll finish the month with as many readers as I start with – or am I seeing this all wrong? Will becoming a prolific purveyor of nonsense actually attract readers? It never occurred to me before that just writing any old tosh might be the secret behind this whole blogging escapade.

Of course now I have to figure out how to get these words from the iMac back to the PC. You might have thought I would figure this out before writing them, and you would have been wrong. I might be many things, but I’m not that clever.

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