Compulsive Computing: The Perils and Pleasures of Writing 600 Words


It’s noon on Monday and I have five hours to write and schedule a post before I have to get ready to attend a Magic basketball game this evening. My posts come out twice a week, at 12:01 a.m. every Tuesday and Friday morning.  I’ve been doing this for almost two years and am kind of obsessed about staying on schedule.  Last week was unusually busy so I’m under the gun today.  Only five hours to come up with a topic and 600 words. Holy crap!
I’m a fast thinker. This makes me a slow writer because so many synapses fire at once that it takes some time to assemble all the input into something understandable to others. It also makes ordinary conversation problematic since I have a habit of coming out with non sequiturs. I’ve been subjected to many a blank stare when, for example, we’re talking about Magic basketball and I’m wondering aloud about dinner. It makes perfect sense to me. I associate basketball games with arena food and arena food makes me hungry and hunger reminds me of dinner. In fact, writing the above sentence made me hungry so I had to stop and make lunch.
But I digress. Another reason I’m a slow writer is that I need to know how I feel about something before I’m ready to write about it, and I’m a slow feeler.  Well, I don’t really feel slow; I’m just slow to recognize my feelings. As an aside, (and to illustrate my point about firing synapses), I need to digress again: When I say feelings, I don’t mean just emotions.  I mean feeling in the Jungian sense of valuing: assessing phenomena in terms of what is meaningful to me, what is not, and why. For instance, I saw the movie A Dangerous Method about Jung, Freud, and Spielrein a few days ago and enjoyed it, but I still don’t know exactly how I feel about it, so I’m not ready to write about it yet.
It used to take three or four days to get a post together and I worried a lot about meeting my deadlines. Why? I don’t know. After all, they’re self-imposed!  Nowadays I trust my unconscious to send me something: but in five hours? Last night I awoke several times and each time I was thinking about what today’s topic would be. But nothing gelled.
Then this morning it hit me that this post would be my 200th, and when I checked my blog stats I discovered I now have 200 e-mail subscribers! Now that felt meaningful! So I pondered this computational coincidence over my compulsory morning sudoku, while reading and answering my compulsory e-mail, and during my compulsory check-in with my other sites. Finally, I settled down to write. I refilled my coffee cup. I lit my candle for inspiration. I closed my eyes to meditate.  I heard, “You’ve got mail!” It was a series of cartoons from Fred’s office manager about working with computers. All this was too synchronistic to ignore, and the result is this post on blogging, computing, internet networking, and the inefficient wiring of one writer’s brain.
In closing, here’s my latest favorite quote about writing from author Paul Auster, “Becoming a writer is not a ‘career decision’ like becoming a doctor or a policeman. You don’t choose it so much as get chosen, and once you accept the fact that you’re not fit for anything else, you have to be prepared to walk a long, hard road for the rest of your days.”
600 words? Exactly! Hard? Yes, but also way gratifying.
Okay, this last sentence takes it beyond 600 words but I thought you’d  like to know it took me 4 hours and 53 minutes!

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0 Responses

  1. It is amazing you kept a schedule about publishing twice every week and on time, and for so long. I could never manage. I am rather irregular in posting. I write at my whim, usually posting the first draft or second draft, and never spend more than a few hours over them.

  2. Well thank you. It could also be that I’m stubborn, one-track minded, and an obsessive perfectionist! But I like amazing better! I don’t know how you can do it in only a few hours. I think revising must be a spiritual practice for me!
    Thanks for stopping by,

  3. I think that most things that are worth writing about are worth mulling over at some length.
    With you on the non sequiturs…(and the rest)

  4. Hi Jeanie,
    I enjoyed your blog today–it was fun reading and I loved your humor! I can so relate! I find that when I have something important to do (like sitting down and finding the right words to say about something or to someone) I seem to need to have everything else around me in place and in order before I can begin. And the slightest little distraction must be attended to before I can finish. It’s nice to know that I’m not alone! Congrats on your 200th post and thanks–many are helped and inspired by them!

    1. Hi Marilyn,
      Thank you! I know what you mean: messy house, messy mind! I’ve found that in general I think and communicate far better through writing than through talking. The physical act of writing words down, then being able to see them and go back to them again and again is a tremendous help to focusing and following a logical idea through to its logical conclusion. Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to write. I appreciate the kind words! Jeanie

  5. Good morning, Jeanie,
    4 hours, 53 minutes–not bad! Your post today gave me a chuckle as I recognized myself in so much of it…I too think fast and ‘feel’ slow, and I need references to concepts like emotion and instinct simply explained! So I found your clarification of ’emotion in the Jungian sense’ insightful. I’d not been able to articulate it before though I felt there was another layer there somewhere! And the writing…yep, in trying to explain the subject of my present manuscript, I just this past week told a colleague I would never have chosen to write about this subject…it chose me! Thank you for your insights, and have a great day, bett fitz

    1. Good morning, Bett, Thank you for coming by and taking the time to send a response! See, this is one of the things I love about blogging, computing, and social media. Here I am in my jammies and robe eating breakfast and chatting with you about Jungian theory!
      The thing about being chosen by a subject, practice or career is that one can always refuse to accept, but I think we suffer mightily for it. Accepting writing after years of ignoring it felt like a huge burden was lifted from my shoulders, like I was leaving the battlefield and coming home at last!
      I’m curious to know more about your manuscript and what it is about the subject that is so unexpected! Best of luck with it!

  6. Jean, I enjoyed this post very much! I laughed out loud especially at the fast thinker, slow writer, many synapses comment, as well as the notion of the inefficiently wired brain. I can relate! I admire your schedule of twice weekly posts. My goal this year is double my posts from last year, which would put me at a whopping total of 12 posts in 2012. My slow production level is due in part to the fact that I usually create a video story that’s the bedrock of each post. My synapse lapses come mostly in the lengthy audio and video editing stage– the endless process of trying to distill further and further to the essence. So the delightful part for me is once I sit to actually write the accompanying post, it usually feels like it writes itself. Of course, I wouldn’t even want to comment on how many hours of video whittling precede this point! Cheers to your 4 hours and 53 minutes and to your 200th post.

    1. Thank you, Lucy. I’m so glad it resonated and made you laugh! As you no doubt realize if you’ve read many of my other posts, humor is a departure from my normal mode of writing, but I really got a kick out of it and was surprised to find that it took less time than most of my serious stuff. I think my self-imposed deadline forced me to try altering my voice in ways I would not otherwise have done. I should wait until the last five hours more often!
      I thought your video of the needlepoint woman was wonderful and look forward to your next production. Having worked in television for two years I know a bit about editing and sympathize with how time-consuming it is. But it’s always worth it when you’re communicating something that’s important to you in a way you love, isn’t it?

  7. Thank you for the privilege to peek into your brain. As a new writer, I find your post fascinating, refreshing, and hopeful. Here, in a nutshell, is how it has gone with me this past year: Pain shoots through spilling rivers of ink across the page. Hope shines through dipping the page in light. One word sparks another and soon a fire’s spreading over the forest of white. I read something you wrote and synapses start firing everywhere…Fireworks erupt in bursts of syllables and images. Some shadow blooms and I rest in its coolness as vines of ivy stream from my chest over the empty valley of the page. Some memory of unthinkable abuse scorches my insides and words—black tears–burst forth and flood the page with sorrow and rage. While walking, words bubble up and my hand trembles as I try to keep up with the current flowing through my head, my heart, my arm to the hand, through the pen, to the page. Learning to leave the newly written poem/story/string of images alone for a moment after they’ve just been born. Struggling with wanting so many more readers. Not liking waiting. Learning to love what comes without “good” or “bad” always rushing in with their pronouncements and verdicts. As the sorrow singes through the grain of my being, hope unfolds as I know, somewhere, someone is reading, weeping, healing. Delight shimmers in my body as another story is given. I bow my head before the Muse and she says, “No. Keep your head high. You are beautiful. You listen.” I look out at the road ahead. Trudging. Dancing. Singing. Weeping. Laughing. Words rise with the moon and circle around my feet as I stand on the shores of my dreams. Sometimes I can’t stop the images from rushing in—the torrent is swift and wonderful, tearing out entire forests of inhibitions. Other times, I worry I have somehow offended the Muse…And then I remember. She never stops speaking, whispering, shouting, singing. It is me who needs to slow down sometimes and listen—just as she said I do. Courage comes in cool washes, bathes my soul when I read your struggles, victories, vulnerabilities, wisdom, generosity. You are my writing/dream angel and your deep and rich work have helped open the gates to the inner chambers of creativity that will not be dammed up any longer. Thank you, and Peace dear Jeanie, peace.

  8. Thanks for the laughs, Jean! I really enjoyed seeing this side of you and felt so resonant with how your brain functions. I enjoy responding to your blogs which has helped give me courage to keep writing down those things that just arise in me in response to what I’m experiencing. When something takes my attention I can lose hours trying to capture my emotions and thoughts about it. It’s so cathartic! I feel so fulfilled when I’m finished! Yet, very hesitantly call myself a writer and seldom publish what I write. I usually have more ideas than time to write or to make them clear and concise. You do that so very well! Thank you for persevering with your writing discipline 200 blogs later!! I’m inspired.
    By the way, I also saw A Dangerous Method recently. A very powerful movie that raises some very important questions about the mysteries of sexuality and soul initiation. I’m curious where you might go with your reflections on the movie, Jean. The soul has needs that reason cannot abide, it seems. Keep up your inspiring work! Julie

    1. I love reading your responses and I’m so glad my posts are emboldening you to honor your own experiences. I think losing hours in the beauty of yourself may be what eternity is all about. Then you come down to earth and have to deal with everyday self-doubt again! Could we be meant to trust that we deserve eternity and that its gifts to us need to be sent into the world? That it’s a balancing act and always will be as long as we’re in this life? I suspect so…. Still thinking about A Dangerous Method. Love your comment “The soul has needs that reason cannot abide.” I agree totally! Thank you for the kind words. Jeanie

      1. Thank you for your encouraging reply, Jean. I’m in transition from 30 years in the literal and symbolic woods where I have slowly found my voice, to finding more outer freedom from the responsibilities of my work in order spend more time following the morning star into the dawning of my own new day.
        Courage is the operative word. It’s hard to die to all that has given my life meaning and purpose up to this point and trust that in the unknown I will only find more of myself to give.

        1. I know those symbolic woods well. I spent many years there myself and still give them a visit from time to time. I’ve found that the terrain becomes more familiar and stepping out gets easier from one visit to the next…

  9. I recognize that state of slow recognition of feelings. There have been films that took me weeks to process. The one that comes to mind immediately is “Holy Smoke”. I had a strong reaction against it when I first saw it, but that perception changed over time. It was perhaps a better insight into self than liking a film right away.
    The cartoons are great!

  10. Dear Jean,
    Thanks for this funny and instructive post about the production pressure of a writer’s life. I plan to borrow your supportive thinking about the link between a fast (call mine jumpy) mind and slow writing.

    1. It’s lovely to hear from you, Elaine! You’re more than welcome to whatever support my musings might lend. We writers need to stick together. I wish you well with your own work!
      Thanks for stopping by,

  11. Yes Jean, I wanted to know that. Reassuring to hear that your seemingly effortless prose devours such sizeable chunks of your time. Guess it’s ‘the art that hides art.’
    As brevity often equates with simplicity it does seem to take longer than self-indulgent flights of formless ideas.
    You do have a knack for making complex issues accessible. As a newby “Jungian” I appreciate this, and am delighted to have found your blog.
    Thank you.

    1. Hi Questra,
      I’m warmed by your very kind words and so gratified to know you find my writing accessible! Jung’s language and theories can be very challenging and clarifying them is something for which I consciously strive. I’m delighted you’ve found my blog too!
      My best,

  12. A number of years ago I was sitting in a friend’s art studio. We’d usually sit around and chat, listen to music and occasionally Andy would pick up his brush and paint a bit. One day, in the middle of a painting, he stopped, looked at his work, uttered some expletive and began covering the painting in white paint. He covered all but a little small spot, which was almost in the center of the canvas. I said, “Andy you missed a spot.” He said, “No, I didn’t. I like that color. I’ll start with that.” I said, “Start what?” He said, “I have no idea. I’ll just jump in. Creativity comes to me during the process not before.” That represents one of the most profound lessons I’ve learned about the creative process. Thanks to Andy, I never wait for inspiration. I create it.
    Very good story, Jeanie. And cleverly written as well. You’re good.

    1. What a beautiful story. I think I’ve pretty much reached that stage too. I’ll start out a piece with one idea in mind and end with a completely different, and almost always much better, one that almost seems to write itself once I get going. I think it’s about the ego being able to let go of its expectations, which allows the unconscious self to come through.Thanks for the kind words about this story.
      Jean Benedict Raffa, Ed.D. Email: Blog: Web: Facebook:

  13. I almost didn’t comment because you have a bazzion comments here but ok, here goes. I enjoyed this on many levels. Its gratifying to learn others feel the same as I do. I have only been at blogging for maybe eight months and I seem to have settled into a schedule of once a week on Sundays. Twice a week seems like a huge undertaking. When I first started it took me a week to write a post. Now I find 24 hours is enough. I use to agonize over every word, now I let inspiration guide my fingers. I still edit and ponder over words but I am working at letting me be me rather than me being someone else, like say Jean Raffa, who I thought it would be cool to be but I wouldn’t know how. There was an interview on 60 minutes with Adele where she was talking about how she doesn’t do gimmicks. She said she could try but she is sure no one would believe her. I could attempt to do Jean Raffa but people would see I was a huge phoney. So I have to stick with me being me.
    Congratulations on writing 200 posts and 200 email subscribers! What a fantastic milestone. As Richard Dreyfuss said in Close Encounters of the Third Kind while pointing to his mound of mashed potatoes, “This means something.”

    1. Thank you for your fun and honest comment! I love your humor and I love Adele’s comment and I agree utterly with both of you. I’m so glad you’ve decided not to be me. I’m sure you wouldn’t like it. It’s so much better (and far easier, once one gets the hang of it) to be oneself! 🙂 Jeanie

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