Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Invisible words, written in the ether

My iBook has been in the throes of death for years. First, keys became stuck until their covers were discarded (thankfully, I rarely use "~"). Then Internet pages stopped loading. Finally the screen started to flash and sputter if not set at an exact 40 degree angle.

So I began to eye other Apple laptops on eBay; after a few mornings of watching bids flash by, I grew weary of the whole exercise and, on impulse, probably paid too much for an old MacBook Pro.

Although the MacBook loads Internet pages and offers an unblinking screen,  I have yet to fully adopt it. Four weeks after its purchase, all my writing from the last five years still resides in my iBook.  The writing is already backed up on flash drives and external hard disks, so I know that it can be somewhere else, but I can't bring myself to take it out and transfer it completely to another machine.

Getting rid of one machine for another always feels like a little death to me. I get a sweep of nostalgia when we've had to move to a newer, better computer. But there's something else going on here, I  finally realized. To transfer all my words in one motion through the ether somehow acknowledges that they aren't real, that they are invisible, fragile. It feels like I am ripping them from their home, the place of their birth.

I wonder if other writers feel this way? Maybe it's because I first started to write on typewriters and the words could only exist there, unquestionably tangible. Words written on a computer are more of a verb than a noun, an action frozen. They are written, typed, saved. Even when completed, they still remain more an idea than a thing. Writers who have always written on computers perhaps don't feel this need for a specific home for their words.

(The photo above reveals the one thing I've done on my MacBook--play with its Photobooth feature. Self-portrait, March 2011)

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