Saturday, July 10, 2004

Let's try something different for the moment: a mostly-unrewritten entry.

Usually, I write with great pauses between sentences. Sometimes the pauses last so long that I forget what I was writing in the previous sentence, or that I abandon a paragraph -- or an entry -- entirely. At other times, I write the same sentence four or five times, and constantly delete and re-type. I'm picky, and half the time I can't even form something grammatically correct the first time it comes out. Or if I can form something grammatically correct, it's technically incorrect, which is nearly as bad.

I am procrastinating now, though, from -- what else? -- writing. So this seems like a good experiment.

I write here for three reasons, really. The first is the reason that has kept me writing to myself for many years: I forget things. More specifically, I forget the chronological order in which things occur. Well, I sometimes forget other things, too -- like birthdays and people's names and where I put my glasses. But in terms of remembering events, I'm pretty good at keeping odd little details in my memory. I just forget the matrix in which those details should be embedded. And so I have a few notebooks of terse recounts of my days and weeks, which I doubt would be of much use or interest to anyone but me.

The second reason is to communicate with friends and family, which is really most of the set of people reading, I think. If someone else finds it amusing, that's fine, too. And for those arriving at these pages through a search engine: the proper spelling is teetotal, the conventional definition is to abstain completely from alcoholic beverages, and dictionary sites will probably serve you better than this search.

The third reason is to think. I do mathematics with pen or pencil in hand, and the pen is often moving, even when I'm staring into space. I take notes in classes that I find particularly difficult, even if I never look at the notes later. I write summaries of problems that I work on, even if I have no intention of sharing the summaries with anyone else. The act of writing forces ideas into a more concrete form, filters the mental fuzz, and enhances the memory. I can write some pretty incomprehensible garbage when I'm not thinking straight, but it's easy to recognize it as garbage once it's on paper.

This is not to say that I'm deliberately spending my time filling this page full of garbage. It is to say that some of the things I write have more to do with me writing than with you reading.

Even if there are no real meaty thoughts behind them, it's a joy to run fingers over the keyboard. It's almost as much fun as writing with a pen, though the two activities are different and suit different moods. I imagine I might get the same joy from playing a musical instrument, if there were any musical instruments that I played competently.

I'm listening to the radio. I'm waiting for a simulation to finish; it has about forty minutes left, which means that it's more than half finished. Sitting beside me is A Walk in the Woods, with the cover picture of a green forest and a bear's head peeking up over the subtitle bar at the bottom. On the other side is a pile of pages of scrap, intermixed with the marked-up pages of an old draft of the report I'm currently working on -- or avoiding working on, as the case may be. There are so many marks on the borders of the draft that it is hard to tell those pages from the pages of scrap paper. The pile is relatively neat, but I doubt the pages are in the right order, and I'm sure that the pages of the draft are mixed together with the pages of notes. And since I've processed most of the comments in the draft that actually meant anything for more than a minute after I wrote them, the state of disarray is just fine.

I don't think I had a face-to-face conversation for all of the day, unless you count the interaction with the clerk at Barnes and Noble. I talked to Winnie on the phone, of course, but beyond that, I don't think I had any conversations today. For that matter, I haven't had many conversations since the start of the past week. People are out of town, at home and at the office, and so days have been quiet. Suits my mood, it does. Still, I'm glad Winnie visited on Friday, and I'm looking forward to having dinner with her again tomorrow night.

And I'm actually really looking forward to my trip this coming week, even if it's a little bewildering to travel again so soon after I returned from Copenhagen. Well, perhaps it isn't that short a break.

Tap, tip, tap. Perhaps I should return to reading. Or perhaps I should return to editing.