A mailman, a roofer, and a writer walk into a bar. They all look miserable and could use a stiff drink. The mailman says, “rain, sleet, and snow, my foot! Last winter I had to deliver mail in three feet of snow!” The other two nod sympathetically. After a swig, the roofer says “Well, this heat wave is killing me. All day long up on a sizzling roof in the blazing sun? No thank you.” The other two nod sympathetically. Finally, the writer says, “Well, those sound horrible but I think I have you both beat.” The other two brace themselves expecting the worst. “This one time,” he says, “I went a week without WiFi.” The other two hastily order another round for their friend.
Yes, having moved into my new apartment I found myself without WiFi for over a week now. It’s been a nightmare scenario that haunts my waking hours. It’s also why I have struggled to pump out the number of articles I used to be able to do: Researching and finding sources is tough when those sources are online and you aren’t.
It’s not a complete wash though because I have managed to write a lot more fiction and reflective essays in the interim. I am trying to look at this time as a bit like Henry David Thoreau’s time at Walden Pond (but with more electricity and less tranquility). Who knows, maybe while I’m missing the latest trending topic on twitter I’ll discover the next great American philosophical movement. Or perhaps I’ll just think up some more corny jokes.
Sometimes I hate Microsoft Word. I wish I could tell it that I’m not writing a thesis paper, or perfecting my cover letter, or typing up a congressional report: I’m making ART. It’s going to be messy. I’m going to use fragments. My fragments are going to fragment. I’ll throw in a run-on sentence where it’s needed. Jackson Pollock didn’t have to deal with this crap.
If that little anthropomorphized paper clip were still around I would give him a serious talking to (I’m a writer, I don’t need to justify what I do at my writing desk. I’ll talk to a virtual paperclip if I please!). I’d inform him that maybe he should focus more on making sure I don’t accidentally use “there” when I mean “their” (yeah, I do it sometimes. Arrest me, grammar police!), instead of underlining every other sentence in obnoxious, judgmental green. “Um, stop writing please. You’ve got a fragment here. Consider revising.” Hemingway would have killed Clippy. He wouldn’t have put up this.
Don’t get me wrong, I bet Microsoft Word has really helped cover letter authors, thesis writers, congressional interns, but putting “Slaughterhouse-Five” into a word document should be considered high treason, such is the offensiveness. That masterpiece of a book would stand no chance against the silent, heartless, soulless grammarian that is this programs internal algorithms. Ignore the power. Ignore the sentiment. Does it violate “noun+verb=sentence”? Then, sorry Mr. Vonnegut, it appears you’ve got some fragments. Consider revising. So it goes.
Even if they can’t articulate it, I bet there isn’t an author on the planet whose favorite color is that shade of green. On some primordial, intangible level, that shade of green represents stagnation, interruption, and – the authors worst foe of all – doubt. How could an author love a color that represents such antipathy towards the creative process. Clippy is clearly not a writer, but surely he can relate. We, like him, are often ignored. Our egos are paperclip thin. We both tell inconvenient truths if we’re doing our jobs well. So back off. Let me write. If you think I need a semi-colon, wait until I’ve finished my thought. If you notice a fragment, consider that maybe it’s important. Maybe it’s exactly where I want it. Right where it belongs.
I know. I know. Just turn off “spell and grammar check”, some will say. It’s not that simple! That feels like cheating. If I did that, then I’d be wondering where the green lines would be. I can’t work under such fascism. Instead, I plead for understanding. Heck, maybe even give me some encouragement. When I write a particularly good line, grammar be damned, underline it in yellow. “Great alliteration!” that yellow line would say. “Wow, powerful stuff!” that yellow line would say. “Cool opening paragraph, but a bit contrived don’t you think?” watch it yellow line, don’t ruin this.
I doubt Microsoft can, or will, change Microsoft Word just for us writers. It’s sold in Microsoft Office for a reason. It’s for TPS reports and interoffice memos, not short stories and unfinished novels. Besides, the word “office” implies jobs and authors don’t have jobs (haha… aw), so it’s up to us – the authors – to soldier on, ignoring critics from without and, sadly, within. Like we always have. So it goes.