Sunday, May 4, 2014

Left to Your Own Devices

The device on your wrist could be mistaken for an inexpensive digital watch.  It does in fact give the time and, with the push of a button, the month and date.  Moments ago, it seemed eager to let you know it is 5-4.

If you let it do so, the device will also monitor your bone density, your sleep patterns, your heart rate, and the number of calories you burn during the course of a day,

You did not acquire the device for such things, rather for the track it keeps of the number of steps you take during the course of a day, reporting in at fifteen-minute increments.  The device takes on a tyrannical view of the times you spend seated, raising alarms when you remain at your desk for more than an hour without standing up.

On the surface, these things have practical value, a fact you remind yourself of from time to time in light of the fact that your investments tend toward the more impractical things, whim-related things, gadgets, devices to store and reproduce music or filmed dramas.  The practicality you have in mind is the need to keep yourself in some state  of fitness to allow you to work your way into and, you hope, through the list of books and stories you wish to engage.

To a certain extent, the philosophy behind the Garmin Vivio on your wrist runs parallel to the philosophy of structuring your day so that the top priority is for composition, then reading, these to come at the expense of any other leisure time you might have after editorial or teaching duties, which in their way contribute to living expenses.

The Garmin Vivio and composition are like cat and dog; some accord may be possible, but in a sense they are like the two hemispheres of your brain.  When you are engaged in writing or reading, a tyrant of a tracking device, flashing red bars at you to get you to stand up, seems an absurdity, counter to the years you've spent being able to get into and remain focused on composition or reading.  You don't want to get up because a device tells you it's time to stand for a few minutes.  You want to keep writing.  Or reading.

When you are composing first or early draft, the last thing you want is some form of practical reminder, much less your interior editor questioning your choice of words or wondering if you, with all your harsh words about the use of -ly adverbs, really meant to use really instead of some non-adverbial trope such as "in reality."

In retrospect, you had the equivalent of such a device when you were a paid employee of one publisher, where, in your rise through the editorial ranks, you were expected to provide charts and reports showing the progress your staff was making in the editorial and production stages of book manuscripts acquired for publication.  Your then publisher was quite serious when he told you there was no place on your progress reports for authors who had a bad writing day or who were late getting their pages in.  He was in effect equating the number of steps necessary to write a manuscript, edit it, design the printed format, then arrange with a manufacturer to produce this new product to tangibles which were anomalous to the human condition.

Your device has factored your age, weight, and relative physical condition to an ideal which, if met, sends your computer a merit certificate.  To your great satisfaction, you figured out how to forestall these merit certificates.  Although they are meant to be positive reinforcement, they remind you of the meme wherein the number of steps trumps the pleasure of being out and about in your own choices of times, taking in the world about you.

The number of words written or the amount of time necessary to get at the right words is, at least for you, a hopeless variable.  One day, you might have it in a draft or two.  The next day, with nothing but time and space before you, you might be lucky to produce one keepable page.

The device on your wrist is a counter, a keeper of records, which it sends to your computer, now, mercifully without merit certificates.  It has taken you years to turn off the internal editor, and you are not about to begin paying it heed again by listening to a damned record keeper.

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