on writing

Via the ever-wonderful RMS at the Worst Horse, I have discovered, downloaded, installed, and am now using Ommwriter. As my long-time readers know, I have a complicated relationship with all things marketed as “Zen” or “Buddhist” or in any way a part of the spirituality business to the extent that it rubs my leftist leanings the wrong way, raising my quiet indignation against the system, the market-saturated culture of oppression in which we often find ourselves.

But. I digress.

I digress because I may be a convert here. The experience of actually using Ommwriter is, to put it bluntly, pretty freakin’ cool. I think part of the reason I’m enjoying it is because I was reminded yesterday about an article I read some years ago — one of those articles written by a linguist or a statistician at MIT back when the Internet was still called ARPANET, the kind of paper that gets shuffled from hard drive to hard drive before ending up in some dusty corner of the web to be found by the likes of me. I can’t now recall where I found that article, but I do recall that its author claimed that word processing programs are evil. They are evil because they force users to become two fundamentally different types of people simultaneously: typists and typesetters. The art of writing, of typing, is something that requires focus and dedication. And word processing programs, to the extent that they distract you with auto-spelling corrections and troubling you with type face and fonts and margins and so on, get in the way of writing. A good writer, the author suggested, should just write — and only once she’s finished, should she worry about Helvetica or Times New Roman, single or double space.

Ommwriter is reminding me very much of that article. It fills the screen. I cannot see my menu bar or my dock or my desktop. (To get a good feel for what it’s like, watch this.) I do not know if anyone has sent me an email or retweeted some inane thing I said on the Internet, and thus I am not distracted from my primary task every thirty seconds. (This, I have a feeling, is going to come in extremely handy when I sit down to write my next academic paper.) The only controls I have over type face here are to make the text a bit larger or smaller, throw in some italics, and perhaps choose a serif over a sans-serif font. In short, I am writing. Nothing more, and nothing less.

(The good and the bad new is that this program is for the Mac only; but it’s an elegant reason to switch, if you’re so inclined!)

In other, and completely unrelated, writing news, Nella Lou over at the Enlightenment Ward (EW) has been doing some writing of her own, a wonderfully surreal bit based on, among other wonderful things, James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake (FW). She’s got a way with words, that one, and I highly recommend pointing your browser in her direction.

And since I’m now in the mode of promoting the creative endeavors of others, I’ll also point out this article. I believe it made its way around the Internets earlier this fall (did I see it over on the Worst Horse, too? or Shambhala Sun Space). But I was reminded of the article because it was written by a former IBS student and friend of mine now living and working in Tokyo who sent it off to me this week.

More, the Bottom of Heaven’s latest post is also quite good, touching on, among other things, the goodness that is This American Life (and ways to make it even more American), Sesame Street, and First Lady Michelle Obama, an episode I would certainly tune into week after week. Her writing is also good (so good I couldn’t even think of a better adjective to describe it or add to “good”; it is good); her bit on A Dharma for Blues People from this past summer hasn’t quite left my head since I first read it.

From one of the most important websites out there, History is a Weapon lets us know that a film by Howard Zinn, author of A People’s History of the United States, will be on the History Channel. Imagine that. The History Channel is going to do some actual history telling.

And finally, because it just wouldn’t be prudent to do all this promoting without some self-promotion thrown in, the new episode of the DharmaRealm is up, part three of our first live show. This episode and the next, as yet unreleased, episode dig into some fairly meaty topics. Enjoy.

And in the off chance I don’t get a chance to post anything in the next four days, be mindful of the fact that we all have much to be thankful for, even in these dark times. It’s a wonder any of us are here at all, and to paraphrase Nagarjuna, it’s time to practice like your hair is on fire!


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