Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Limning Limitations

by Josh

God, I love limitations. Without limitations, where would be our challenges and heroic struggles? Without limitations, how would we know when we've exceeded them?

As writers, we all deal with limitations on a daily basis. Most obviously, we do battle with the limitations of language. There are just so many ways in which a person, place, thing, or action can be described, and we are burdened not only by a finite number of words but by a finite number of organizational possibilities, and that's if we toss aside some of the more constraining rules of grammar. However, with every word we invent or rule we break, we run the risk of alienating our audience or at the very least baffling them to indifference. There is a reason why James Patterson sells better than James Joyce. I happen to prefer James Joyce, but that's only because I enjoy literature that forces me to think and analyze and question my preconceptions about everything from basic human expression to the identity of God. James Patterson's novels don't encourage anything other than the turning of pages, and that's fine, but I'm greedy. I want more.

As to the limitations I deal with as a writer which are of a more personal nature, well...

I can't type correctly. I mean, I type correctly, insomuch as I know where the keys are without looking at them and all that, but I only use my index fingers and my thumbs. I'm self-taught. That said, for someone who types incorrectly, I do tend to be both speedy and accurate (and apparently very loud). But I've been typing like this since I was, like, six years-old, so this old bad habit isn't going anywhere. And the funny thing is this: when I actually try to concentrate on my typing, it becomes plodding and messy. Physical activity is very much not my forte, and I only excel at physical activities which require little to no thought.

Um, interpret that however you wish.

Another limitation I have as a writer is my absolute inability to listen to songs when I write. I know many writers who love to crank up some tunes to get them cooking at the keyboard, and I wish I were one of those writers because I am a huge fan of music, but I am also hugely distractable, and if a song is on, I want to roll around in the lyrics and it's really difficult to meet a deadline whilst rolling around. I am slightly more successful with wordless music, such as concertos and film scores, but only slightly, as the harmonies and crescendos of a great piece of music simply demand one's attention. Music is divine and I'm only human.

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Gabi said...

I just tried to type with the index finger, thumb Josh method. I don't know how you do it. Human? More like superhuman.

As for Joyce, greed is good.

Michael Wiley said...

I share your typing limitation, Josh -- though I never use my thumbs (just my index and middle fingers). I regret not having learned to type when I was a teenager . . . .

I enjoyed the post.

Joshua Corin said...

Oh, Gabi Gekko...

Joshua Corin said...

Thanks, Michael.

Your index and middle fingers, eh? Which taps the spacebar?

Michael Wiley said...

Oddly enough, either the middle finger or both at once. I've never claimed to be graceful.

I'm going to try your thumb technique, but I doubt that I'm coordinated enough to make it work.

Wait: I've just realized now that I use my middle finger and ring finger for the space bar.

Kelli Stanley said...

Josh, I can't listen to music while I write either ... it's like trying to listen to two radio stations at once. I need to hear the rhythm of my own words.

As for typing, I learned the basics in 9th grade (thank you, Mrs. Ireland!) but your method sounds much more writerly. :)

Reece said...

I started with the index finger/thumb technique, but I took a class before I went off to journalism school because I thought it was expected. Turns out there were plenty of j-schoolers with "personalized" typing techniques. Nice post, Josh.

Rebecca Cantrell said...

I was forced to take typing because I was a girl (no joke). I fought it and moaned. Turns out if might have been the most useful thing I learned in Talkeetna. Thank you, Mrs. Donoho!

I also listen to music when I write.

I am going to take the high road re: physical activities that don't require thinking and rolling around for your deadlines.

I am hoping that Shane doesn't though.