9.21.2014

On Fragmentation

I've been thinking about typewriters lately. And how much I enjoy typing on them. For the longest time, I thought it was because the typewriter is a connection to the past, to this whole group of literary giants. Then I thought it was the tactile sensation. This is something I still believe, that the act of pressing a key and seeing the mechanism move creates a feeling in the gut, a tangible progress that goes missing in word processors. Add to that the cadence of the typewriter itself and you have magic. It is glee, the transferal from thought to keystroke to ink on a real piece of paper. It is creation.

But I don't think that's all that's going on, at least for me, when using a typewriter. For me, I think it has something to do with fragmentation. This is a word that gets thrown around in various circles, most notably in the smartphone blogs. They talk about it as a negative aspect of Android phones, but I don't think the word deserves to have only a negative connotation.

/ʼfrægmənt/ n.

Etymology: French fragment (16th century) or Latin fragmentum (frangere to break).
     1. A part broken off or otherwise detached from a whole.

And yes, this could be very negative in a lot of scenarios, but I think that, at least for me, fragmentation is a great way to work. And I think a typewriter is a great example of this. By doing my fiction writing on a typewriter, I am keeping it separate, fragmenting it, from all of my other work that I do on my computer. The act of fragmentation does something wonderful to both my creativity and my work ethic. Lately I've found myself struggling to write even a few paragraphs on the computer, but when I carry my typewriter over to the dining room table I can type three pages like its no big deal. 

I think this happens in part because of the way technology has evolved to be a part of my life. It may not be this way for everyone out there, but I am fairly obsessed with technology. I read blogs about it almost every day. It's a little unhealthy, but I am so fascinated by where phones and computers are going, that I can't help myself. My phone has become a little computer, and I find myself using it and my regular computer in similar ways. I read blogs. I check social media. I play games. I listen to music. This is the opposite of fragmentation, and it's only going to continue progressing until our phones and computers are the same thing. Already we're seeing how iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite communicate with each other. On the other side of the aisle, Google is pairing Android with their Chrome OS. And I'm sure Windows 9 will have a similar goal. On one hand, this is great. I won't have to deal with physically unlocking my phone when I'm at home, near my computer, but on the other hand, it's a little too much for my productivity. Because the closer I relate my phone and my computer, the less I think of my computer as a work space. I'm already unconsciously identifying it as a more powerful version of my phone. 

Again, maybe it's not the same for everyone, but it is happening to me. I know I play around on my phone too much, so that doesn't help, but I do think there's something to this. As someone interested in the evolution of technology, I find this unification to be really cool, but as a writer (maybe a little weak willed), I find it very difficult. 

I only find this difficulty in my fiction writing. I can write emails, as well as this blog entry, on my computer with no problem, but I am able to write less and less fiction on it. It is because of this, that I've cleaned and oiled my typewriter. It's not as an attempt to turn away from digital technology, but an effort to reset my brain.

I plan on keeping this blog updated about my progress. My plan is to take the pages I've type and re-write them on my computer to see how that goes. In addition to the typewriter, I will no longer be typing in Google Docs (as has become my habit) because that further unifies the entirety of the internet and my work space. It's super convenient, but I don't think it is very good for me creatively. I will open up a word processor and type everything out, only using my cloud storage for backing up my local drive. We'll see what happens, but I hope I can retrain my brain to separate my phone from my computer and my work from my play. 

Wish me luck.


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