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Thursday, February 7, 2013

How long is too long...

The question is...How long is too long to write a book?

Recently, at one of my book signings, I had the priviledge to chat with the wife of another author attending the signing. During the conversation, she mentioned a friend of hers, another author, had just finished writing a novel and remarked how glad she was that she was finally finished. Thought it took forever!

A couple of days later, I got to thinking about our onversation and thought to myself that it didn't seem like it took me that long to write my book. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that this had the making of a great comparision.

First, let me pose this senario. A week from today is Valentine's Day. We'll call that the setting. Next, we need a couple of young, handsome gent and his endlessly loving gal. (BFFs we'll say) Lastly, the task.  The gent has to write his gal a 100 word...aahhhh...LOVE POEM!

There! The stage is has been set.

In this day and age of modern technology, inpregnated with a plethra of iPads, iPhones, tablets of all sizes and colors, terra byte hard drives and...well, you name it, our gent (being a literary type) can probably tap out this assignment in, let's say, thirty minutes. (Assuming he put some thought into it)

Not bad. She's impressed!

Now...let's step back in time...say, twenty five, maybe thirty years ago. How it used to be done.
The manual typewriter. Ribbons. Levers. Keys that you needed fingertips of steel to tap. Sheets of paper piled next you.

Enter our young gent. After picking up a sheet of paper, he does his best to line it up between the paper guide and the platen. Having accomplished that, he next turns one of the knobs (there is one at either end of the platen, his choice) that feeds the paper down and around so that the top is sticking up just high enough so that the typing hammers will hit the paper, and not the platen. One swipe of his left hand and the return lever positions the carriage, and paper, of course, in the correct position to start his assigned task. He puts his hands together, interlocking all his fingers, does a inside reverse flip with his hands which in turn cracks all of his knuckles, and there...he's ready to begin. He starts tapping out his rythmic poem, mostly using the infamous 'hunt and peck' method. (Using just his thumbs is out of the question) He's almost done, when...damn! A typo! Where's that darned back space key. Crap on a cracker! It's called correction tape. Back space, tape, hit key hard, repeat, repeat, repeat. There done. Time....1 hour, 28 minutes! WHEW!

Whirr, whirr, clang, clang! Our time machine stops somewhere in the early to mid 15th century. Our medieval gent has his own miniature Gutenberg press. Boxes of individual letter blocks, buckets of ink (or should I say globs), rollers, rags, and, of course, stacks of some kind of paper. Lay out the block letter holders, line up the correct letter blocks, (which was a task in itself since the letters were all backwards), put the blocks forming words together to form sentences, roll out the ink, step on the pedal, keep your fingers out of the way, and on, and on, and on. And don't forget to hang up the paper til the ink is dry!  Time...accounting for smudged copies, spelling reprints, and the occassional blood drops from the splittered thunbs, the whole friggin day!

On to...maybe...40,000 years ago. The caveman. But wait...the caveman didn't write. He painted pictures, or maybe better defined as images. Well, none the less...a task is a task. So our mammoth skinned gent sits with a somewhat flat, square stone on his lap, his knees buckling slightly, a small clump of long something hair, twisted to a point, held in one hand and a piece of a shattered gord filled with something of color that resembles a spill at the local Slurpee's held in the other. In his mind, he knows what he wants to say, err, paint. But tranferring that to the stone is a task in of itself. Days go by and he stands in front of the stone to admire his work. He's pleased. Lets out a grunt of satisfaction. "I like it!" Now for the delivery to that special girl. He muscles the stone to his shoulders, turns, stumbles, and...ugghhh! His endeavor is now a small pile of rumble. (Maybe this is why the cavemans' way of courtship was walking up to his gal-to-be, grabbing a handful of her long, scraggly hair, and dragging her off!)

Well, by now, I hope you get the point of my rant. How long is too long, you ask? Guess it's just how dedicated you are to your work. And speaking of vote is for Charlotte the spider. Spent all night to weave TWO words!


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