the hardest thing, probably, about completing my novella (which, thanks for asking, Linda has received and thanked me for) was the fact that it was written on a keyboard that no longer has a hyphen key. (for those who don’t wish to look down, that’s the same as the underscore key, which hangs out on standard QWERTY keyboards next to the 0, but on my squashed Turkish-modified QWERTY notebook keyboard was located next to the backspace (which in itself is too small to have the word “backspace” written out in full and makes do instead with a leftward-facing arrow, in addition to having the unforgivable flaw of being way to goddamned near the enter key, whose leftward-facing arrow is distinguishable from the former for its upward-facing erection), with the *? combo occupying 0’s neighboring lot.)
“the. hardest. thing.” your words, doused as they are with buckets of skepticism and disgust, ring through the darkness that separates you, reader, from me, writer, and though my feelings are hurt a bit by your callous dismissal of my cry for help, i would like to clarify why this hardship merits mention here. i’m a fan of hyphens, you might say, if you were the type of person who tends toward understatements and discussions of my punctuational penchants (and you may well be; i don’t judge). but rather than try to convince you of my fondness, which may backfire, ring hollow and a bit too me–thinks–thou–dost–protest–too–much–esque, i’ll instead simply share a sentence from a story i wrote about a year and a half ago. believe me, context doesn’t matter:
The home telephone (or “landline,” in the jargon of a slightly older, or maybe rural, or maybe both, population subset) is not a good news conductor; it is an I-couldn’t-reach-you-any-other-way-because-either-we’re-not-close-enough-to-have-exchanged-cell-numbers-or-you’re-not-answering-and-I-can’t-say-what-I-want-to-say-over-text-or-email-and-this-is-urgent-type news conductor, meaning generally that a distant relative just died (bad) or your boss needs you to rush back to work (worse) or it’s your father on the line, your father who refuses to call you on your cell phone because he still calculates phone charges as if it’s the 50s you’re living in (worst yet, this third category of phone call).
this sentence falls in the bridge between pages two and three (out of a total of maybe fifteen). it contains 39 hyphens. (i counted. several times, actually, because the number kept coming back different. [enlightened self-interest is not the least of reasons that i live with a math major.] then, after all the counting, i checked the number with ctrl+f in a brand new text document into which i had pasted the above sentence. accuracy is paramount in my work; i hope you’re sufficiently appreciative.) it also is an example of the type of writing my fellow students found tedious, my professor was eye-rollingly, she’s-young-yet tolerant of, and i crow over in private. (my allegiance to this particular sentence has since waned; my desire to smash words together and expand sentences into paragraphs into pages continues to wax, much to the presumed delight of those professors who gave me A’s but smiled a little too sincerely when i graduated. meaning, by my admittedly fallible count, all of them.)
and thus was i left distracted from issues of character and plot by the more quotidian but nonetheless maddening issue of debating whether spellcheck would be able to offer me the hyphenated alternative of, say, “vomitinducing,” or if going in search of the nearest already-typed hyphen to highlight and copy and paste (no easy task, given my lack of mouse and an extremely finnicky touch-pad) would be quicker. and this excludes the times when i assumed the last item on my clipboard was a hyphen, automatically pressing ctrl+v only to find in place of my verbal umbilical cord a link to the most recent update from an inane vegan blog, which i had copied and pasted during moments of procrastination in the vain hope that i would one day replicate the delicacy displayed there and stop being the self-confessed failed domestic that i am. then there followed attempts to highlight and delete the link without harming the word to which it had been glued, followed by a return to the initial debate re: spellcheck/copy&paste.
this, along with a hefty dose of repression, is the reason that i’m able to announce that i think simply finishing the novella was enough. acknowledging my physical and psychological struggles in the composition of the longest fictional work i’ve produced to date allows me to pretend that i’m not desperately awaiting the middle of june (even saying “the middle of june” makes it sound like i don’t know the actual date, which should serve as even more proof of my blasé attitude, shouldn’t it?), that i’m not losing sleep and coiling up with shame whenever i recall a perceived mistake (eg, that i shouldn’t have written out john dice’s accent, because that’s distracting and will piss the judges off), that i’m satisfied with my accomplishment thus far even knowing that it’s unlikely to advance beyond this.
finishing was enough.
note: feel free to consider this post practical advice (don’t buy shitty electronics, don’t drop the shitty electronics that you do buy onto concrete surfaces, take your overly generous relatives up on their overly generous offers of decent electronics). or, alternatively, a lesson in addiction (it’s deep-rooted). or, if you’re not in the mood for didactics, take it as what this blog’s byline originally promised: distraction on the cheap.
teaser: next up is a meditation on my relationships with parentheses and commas, the early results of research for which lead me to believe i should perhaps channel less david foster wallace and more e.e. cummings.