Following the leader:

August 7, 2010 at 5:44 am (drafting) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

This is mostly in response to Carol Kilgore’s post earlier in the week on the blinking cursor.  Afterward I was having trouble typing without staring at the cursor on the screen and that was seriously derailing my ability to type. It really does just sit and blink at you when your fingers hesitate on the keys. It is almost as if it is angry and impatient, dying to get moving and hating you because you need to stop and think.

I probably shouldn’t personify computer blips but there we have it.

As I mentioned in the comments, I don’t sit in front of my screen when I’m thinking. I either move or turn the screen off. The glare and the blinking and just the hum of the computer is all very impersonal and it all feels very demanding. As if you have to get things done right now and that kind of pressure is never good for my creative process. I move away and find more pleasant surrounds, or at least different surrounds.

That said, I like the cursor when I’m on a roll. I see it gliding effortlessly across the screen, a straight and powerful line driving before the flock of words that follow in its wake – and there is probably a mangled metaphor if ever there was one. I see it as a guide and as encouragement. I see the words play out behind it and feel that something is being accomplished. When the story is flowing, the cursor can be your very best of friends and one of your greatest supporters.

Is it that the cursor is in fact two faced or is it that when things go well we see the positive in things but when they go poorly…

Maybe its just the fact that it blinks. Blinking lights always seem impatient and angry. Or alarmed. Concerned. None of these things are what you emotionally want when trying to write so why won’t the cursor stop blinking.

As I hesitated before writing this line I watched the cursor sit and blink at me. Maybe it is just reminding us it is there and trying to keep us from falling asleep at the screen.



  1. Casey Lybrand said,

    I don’t think I’ve ever noticed the cursor while writing — until now!

    I get up and walk around as well, when I need to think about writing. Listening to music while thinking also helps. (And oh god, I can’t *not* see the cursor now!) So. (Dammit, cursor.) So! Sometimes sitting at the computer and essentially forcing myself through the block also works. That leads to scenes that need major revision, but I still feel it’s better than not writing.

    I like what you said about the flow. Even though I’m not (usually) mindful of the cursor, I love to see the words flow out: word after word, line after line. It’s a great feeling, when the writing just seems to happen.

    • Cassandra Jade said,

      Yes, after reading Carol’s post it took me awhile before I could block the cursor out again.

  2. Brown Eyed Mystic said,

    Haha, nice analogy Cassandra.

    I knooow, the cursor, oh no wait THE cursor–persistent at it’s impatience and blinking–sometimes can give you the chills. Especially when you’re thinking. I don’t shut the lid down, neither do I switch the monitor off, but I don’t look at the deadly cursor either. And then, when you are letting the words flow, it will appear happily chirping and winking at me instead. Whew–true, it is double-faced indeed.


  3. Mason Canyon said,

    Very insightful post. I think you’re right, the cursor can be a good thing and a bad depending on how our writing is going. I am the world’s worst at not being able to sit down at the computer and type a story. I usually have to have at least a draft written out in long hand before I start so that helps some. I love the last line of your post.

  4. Carol Ann Hoel said,

    Yes, I see the cursor now moving me along leading the way to victory! The blinking of my cursor buddy I am able to ignore. Thanks for sharing words about the cursor. Like you, Cassandra, when I think, I don’t stare at the screen. I look out my window at the treetops.

  5. catwoods said,

    LOL! When I get stuck, I get up and do a load of laundry or sweep the floor. When I come back to it, my cursor usually glides “effortlessly across the screen, a straight and powerful line driving before the flock of words that follow in its wake.”

    Here’s to happy cursors and happier writers~

  6. Agatha82 said,

    How amusing is this because I no longer even realise I have a blinking cursor, now that you mention it…yes….there it is blinking at me. Funny how your mind just chooses to not “see” some things.

  7. Lee R said,

    This post is so funny. The tiniest things can drive a writer stark raving mad. I mean concentrating on a plot is like balancing a house of cards.

    My last laptop had a fan that always went on and groaned. Drove me crazy. The groaning made me feel tired. I don’t mind outdoor noises (birds chirping, children, talking whatever) but computer noises make me nuts. 🙂

    I also expressly did not buy a certain computer monitor because it had three (!) blinking lights on it. I guess that was the “disco monitor” or something. Why does everything have to blink and flash in this day and age?

    • Cassandra Jade said,

      And beep. I know a number of people about to declare war on their washer, microwave, otehr electrical appliance, because everytime they use the machine it beeps at them incessantly.

  8. Arlee Bird said,

    Computers can be so mystifying to technological idiots like me. Sometimes it’s almost like the computer is trying to say, “Hey, you and I need a break from each other for a little while. Go take a waik or something.”

    That’s what I usually do. If the stubborn machine is going to scan or regroup or whatever it’s doing, then it must mean it’s time for me to go do something else for a while too. I usually come back and everything’s normal and our love affair resumes until the next flake out incident.

    Tossing It Out

  9. Hart said,

    is it weird that I never even notice the cursor unless the computer gets slow. I suppose PART of it is that I WRITE longhand and most of my computer writing time is merely transcription. Most often I type looking back and forth between what I’m tying and a 2nd computer which is playing some sort of entertainment… I rarely LOOK at the screen (though often enough to catch the squiggly typo line)

  10. Christina said,

    This is a great post. My cursor doesn’t blink at me. I imagine it would get annoying.

  11. Miss Rosemary said,

    What a great post! I never thought so much about the curser (mostly becasue I still write in notebooks) but when I do write on the computer, I feel much the same way you do. The curser can be awesome when it’s flying and I have much to say, or the Blinking Line of Doom when I’m stuck.

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