PT: Unplug, Dammit

Gunnery Sgt. Hartmann

I know SEPTA’s got issues. A little inclement weather throws entire train lines out of whack. Engineers desperate to keep on schedule will leave the platform a minute early. Buses plow into eateries. No system is perfect. But I relish my train rides. I don’t pollute, I don’t get bent out of shape over traffic and the jerkasses that come with it, and most importantly of all, I’m unplugged.

I take no laptop, no netbook, no glitzy overpriced unmodifiable gizmo with a lowercase “i” in front of its name. …Okay, I have an iShuffle, an old one in fact, but pipe down I’m making a point. The point is, I have a binder with fiction work in it, be it my manuscript or blank pages to fill with a shorter work, and I take my pen to it. I scribble out thoughts. I frame dialog and action in ball-point gel ink. I write.

Writers have a lot of tools at their disposal to make their lives easier. Dictionaries, thesauruses (thesauri?) and other reference materials fit on thumb drives. Word processing software saves trees in both the writing and editorial process. E-mail lets submissions get fired off to agents and periodicals in a snap. And if you need to research something obscure or find out what’s hot in your genre right now? The Internet is for that. And porn.

But these can also make a writer lazy. A crashing computer can be frustrating as hell and lose you hours of work. The Internet can distract you in various ways. An e-mail from someone to whom you submitted your work that says what you sent just isn’t good enough can be discouraging.

So turn ’em off.

There are times when typing out the words I want to express feels a bit like a disconnect between myself and the work. Like the electronics are getting in the way. Being a child of the electronic age and having grown up around this stuff – I’m still my parents’ go-to guy for tech support – it’s more of a niggling little annoyance than a real issue. However, the feeling still exists. There’s also the fact that my notes, snippets, edits and letters are not going to be obliterated by something as mundane as a power surge or a missed click.

When the zombie apocalypse happens, provided rampant fires don’t destroy everything, I’ll still have my notes. And hopefully some ammunition. I might hold on to my thumb drive full of manuscripts, short stories and ideas, but where am I going to plug it in? How is a computer going to get power? And why didn’t you barricade the door more effectively? I’m in the middle of a love scene here, I can’t stop to grab my shotgun and keep that zombie from helping itself to a mouthful of your brain! YOU BROUGHT THIS ON YOURSELF!

…Where was I? Right. Writing.

If you find yourself running out of time during the day for a variety of reasons – you saw a great tweet, you’ve been playing a game, you’re spending an hour every day in your sweltering car screaming obscenities at some douchebag in an Audi who’s yammering into their Bluetooth headset about the killing they’re making in the stock market – find ways to unplug. Disconnect yourself from the grid. Take up a pen or pencil, grab some wood pulp in sheet form, and get to scribbling.

If you have more suggestions on how & where to do this, or if you have experiences in this vein you’d like to share, go right ahead and share ’em. That’s why you’re here, after all.

Unless you were brought here by searching for ‘inception ariadne’ or ‘troll female.’

Which brings up a whole lot of interesting thoughts when you combine those two search strings.

Changing Commute

Courtesy Wikipedia

I’m running a bit behind today. And not because of the pictured train.

No, in fact, the train might be my salvation in a variety of ways. The commute from Lansdale to Doylestown was no picnic during the lunch hour, and I suspect in morning or evening it wouldn’t be much better. My current commute is rage-inducing enough on some days, I can’t imagine taking a route that’s more circuitous with the same kind of drivers on the road.

So, I think it’s time to invest in a SEPTA pass and hop on the daily train. There are several advantages to this change, which I’ll happily list here.

Fewer Expenses

At $69 per month, the Intermediate Two-Zone Pass (which is all I need since I’m not going into the city at this point) might seem like a large expenditure up front. However, that’s about two full tanks of gas, to say nothing of wear & tear on the engine. Also, while taking the train there’s no temptation to stop at a Dunkin’ Donuts or a Taco Bell or a Bob’s Greasy Unhealthy Meatburger Shack. That means it’s not only less expensive overall, but also healthier, and not just for me…


Along with the usual seething at people acting like jerkasses on the road, especially those in fancy cars that for some reason can only pass on the right (despite it being illegal in PA) and never seem to have working headlights, when you sit at a stop light or in traffic, you’re pumping more waste into the atmosphere. That isn’t the case with a train. It can sit at a station until the cows come home, it’s not emitting anything terribly wasteful. Sure, some bad gasses might be coming from the power plant that provides the locomotive with juice, but if I’m not sitting in traffic, I’m not adding to the problem, now am I?

More Time To Write

Ah, the big one. The one I’m really looking forward to. I spend the better part of an hour commuting every day. That length of time was only looking to get longer with the move. However, when taking the train, I’m not responsible for my transportation. The engineer, bless ’em, makes the train move and keeps their eyes on the track. That leaves me free to jot down notes, lay out the course of conversations, and maybe even write entire passages, if I should get my hands on a keyboard for the Palm I unearthed in our cleaning & packing procedure. It’s likely to be a lot less expensive than a new netbook, and much more portable than my current laptop jalopy.

Very Little Bad News

My schedule will be a bit more dictatorial in terms of when I can leave the apartment, how long I can stay on the typical work day, and needing to handle things in the middle of the day, which sometimes might require me to take the car. However, in the long run, it seems to me that the pros of this change of commute far, far outweigh the Khans cons.

I know it’s May 4th, so may the Force fourth be with you. I miss the original Star Wars, with its somewhat whimsical outlook, the simplicity of the special effects and the charm & chemistry of the cast. There was life to it, once. But I won’t bore you with the fanboyish lamentations of my abused childhood. Not when other people are doing it better than I ever could.

Like Mr. Plinkett, for example.

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