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.
I don’t think anybody likes alarms. They wail and shriek and give you a headache and more often than not they serve no purpose because the alarm was being tested or it went off because of a fault. That said, we aren’t likely to get rid of alarms in a hurry. Despite all the false alarms there is a small chance that this time it is in your best interest to listen and to respond.
Warnings are another thing I don’t like. Particularly on the computer. Warning, this site is insecure. Warning, you are about to send your details etc. I wouldn’t mind so much if these warnings came up when I was genuinely doing something stupid but they always appear when I’m actually playing it safe. When I do something stupid they just let me.
My latest pet hate is the battery warning. “Warning, your cordless mouse’s batteries are critical.” They’ve now been critical for over a week and they still haven’t died. Last time I continued to use the mouse for about a month and a half with the warning up before the batteries actually stopped working. It is irritating. I just start ignoring all messages flashing in the corner of my screen assuming it is just the same old false alarm. As such I probably miss a few important messages and more importantly, when the batteries are actually critical I won’t know it until the mouse actually stops mid-click.
It is the same in stories. False alarms can raise the tension levels, certainly Jaws proved that. Building up and then having nothing happen will keep people guessing and wondering what comes next. If you do it too often, they become emotionally immune to the tactic.
Computer, I am ignoring your warnings. Which means I will be unprepared when something actually does happen and I will be unhappy with the results regardless of how it turns out. I don’t want my reader feeling the same way about my story.