Sunday, January 18, 2009

Various things of a various nature

- My computer has been feeling out of sorts. It has been begging me for more RAM, to the point of shutting The Sims down mid-game to remind me. And then I went to download some photos on it only to have it dramatically refuse because my hard drive is full. It won't even take an incredibly thin wafer mint.

Actually, I am really sick of computers being all impertinent on me. Microsoft Word has suddenly started refusing to have more than one document open at once, I think because of the fullness of my hard drive. And it sometimes tantrums on me and refuses to respond to instructions. I end up with that big white nothing screen where Word should be, I quit, and then a window pops up to ask me if I want to tell Microsoft about it in an error report. Oh, Microsoft! Now I know that you care I feel so much better!

I also have an ongoing war with Microsoft Word in that it is insisting on the US version of everything. You know, it insists on putting a z in surprise and emphasise and various other things. I used to not care about this and just let it be as it may, as long as I was consistent; then I decided that I am a New Zealander, dammit, not an American, and I wasn't going to have any more of this American spelling of everything. I have nothing against it, if you're from the US. However, NZ grammar and spelling has direct roots to UK grammar and spelling, and I feel like it's basically my duty, as a non-American, to use my native rules, rather than the ones Microsoft likes best.

But MY GOD does it not like this. I have done what you're meant to do, by going into the tools option and telling it I want UK English as my default dictionary (I have distrusted the NZ dictionary on Word ever since it failed to recognise 'kia ora' when I tried it a few years ago, although I've been told it has improved since then). But what does Microsoft Word go and do? It goes and reverts to US English every single time I create a new document, so I have to go into the menu and change it again after discovering that it is automatically inserting another 'z' where no 'z' should go. While I respect US English, I think it is pretty damn arrogant that Microsoft seems to have decided to make it so impossible to make a computer stay on anything else. My friend's family got someone to go into the inner workings of the files on their computer to switch it out of US English, but it was back on US English within days. Microsoft! For goodness' sake! Quit it with your language imperialism! Not cool! 

To be fair, Safari is annoying as well. (I'm probably totally jinxing myself typing this.) I'm using Safari because Blogger and my normal browser Opera don't seem to play well together, and Safari keeps trying to correct my spelling. It started by underlining my email address as a spelling error when I typed it in (excuse me Safari but I KNOW my email address), and when I typed in recognise in the previous paragraph, it got all uppity on me and underlined that in red too. (Again with this assuming that I'm American. Gah!) I would really like my technology to leave me alone. If I want help with spelling, I will ask for it. It doesn't need to assume like that. It's actually very patronising. (To which Safari responded by underlining patronising as a spelling error. God, just SHUT UP ALREADY.)

- I am working full time at the bookshop now, so in the near future when I have more time, there will be bookshop anecdotes! Huzzah! I've spent lots of time getting to know some stunning books, most recently The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman. Ah, the awesomeness. Both versions are beautifully done (with the Chris Riddell illustrations and the Dave McKean illustrations), you should go buy it. It's about a boy, orphaned as a baby, who is brought up in a graveyard by the ghosts who reside there. It is wonderfully written; I always forget just how good Neil Gaiman is. For some reason he's always especially amazing in the final quarter or so of everything that he writes. Towards the end of The Graveyard Book, I have to admit I was actually silently urging my customers to leave me alone, couldn't they see I was reading Neil Gaiman, something which no polite human being should ever interrupt?

- I had the mother of all writing breakthroughs over the Christmas break. I seriously haven't had a breakthrough so stunning for years. I'd convinced myself that I'd kind of lost my touch with that sort of thing but had been struggling on anyway, writing my story, feeling uncertain but figuring that something was better than nothing. There's an E. L. Doctorow quote that I live by, about how writing novels is like driving a car at night. You can see no further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way. So I was going by that, making what progress I could, figuring that maybe in few years I might possibly finally have an extremely vague idea of what I was doing. 

Then one night I had this dream about two people who turned out to be my two main characters, and realised that they weren't quite who I thought they were, or where I thought they should be. I struggled over trying to get them to fit into the old version of the story, then decided, screw it, I will fling the previous version aside and try writing the story from the dream. And my god, it worked like nothing else. I could suddenly see them, their difficult pasts, the strange bond gradually forming between them and the world they had to survive in. I seriously think that if I nail the defining relationship of a story, the one that makes everything tick, everything else flows from there. At least, that seems to be my experience. 

I've been busy mastering the art of writing in spare moments, like tea breaks and while I am waiting for the bus. I figure it's an essential life skill. And I already seem to have produced at least as much as I had for the old version of the story. Some of the best writing advice I have ever been given was simply persevere, from John Marsden, when I told him I wanted to write. It's particularly relevant to me, with my monkey brain, going in ten wrong directions for months on end until I finally get a sign of some sort or another and retrace my steps and chase a story home. 

And chasing stories home makes me realise again why I'm alive.

- It is late, and I have a lounge full of pieces of beautiful fans that my flatmate is putting together, two sleeping cats (one on a couch, one on the piano), fascinating tv about New Zealand art history (WHY is this stuff never on at a decent hour?) and a boyfriend trying to convince me to go to bed now because we have to get up early tomorrow and catch a bus. 

Time to stop. Hopefully it won't be so long next time.