PC Fools.

The Rebel Writer Writes Of Slaves & Masters


The great science fiction author Ray Bradbury says, ‘A computer is a typewriter. I have two typewriters, I don’t need another one’ (James Hibberd, 2001 August 29, archive.salon.com). So, one of my favorite writers is one of my PC Fools. Having written 107 essays in the last 105 weeks in the American Chronicle alone, edited and desktop-published my own book (read ‘My American Book,’ frankahilario.com), I know that in creative writing, if you don’t fool around with the PC, you’re a fool.

For the last 2 decades, I’ve been saying that the typewriter is for critical thinking, the personal computer is for creative thinking. If you got it right, you’re a creative journalist. Otherwise, you’re just one of many mechanical-thinking reporters.

And then I have just found another Luddite, another refuser of the computer. Even as he is ‘America’s leading political satirist’ (GA, groveatlantic.com), PJ O’Rourke is ‘the biggest Luddite in the western hemisphere’ (Christopher Koch, 2007 January 30, advice.cio.com). That makes two of the world’s biggest PC Fools. The personal computer is nowhere in Bradbury’s and O’Rourke’s past, present, future. If they can’t learn from the modern world, why should they teach the modern world anything? Well, we can learn from their mistakes.

You see, PC Fools, there are three of those kinds:

Fool #1, the one who rejects the PC and feels good about it; he is the master of his own inferiority. He is a fool; he discards what he has not even tried. Shun him.

Fool #2, the one who accepts the PC yet he treats it like a typewriter; he is the slave of his own mediocrity. He is a fool; he doesn’t know what he’s doing. Teach him.

Fool #3, the one who embraces the PC and treats it as a device for creativity; he is the master of his own superiority. He is a fool; he fools around with the PC because in that way, the machine becomes his slave; and he knows that fooling around is a most delightful way to be creative; in fact, it is the only way. Follow him.

I know which fool am I; do you know which fool are you?

After working with the PC for 22 years and applying what I learned from Rudolf Flesch, that is, readability and ‘creative math’ (see ‘Jatropha Math,’ frankahilario.com), and from Edward de Bono, that is, lateral thinking (see ‘To All The Dummies In The World,’ frankahilario.com), I can teach you this:

Fool is the way to go. Foolishness is the secret of creativity. I just remembered a parallel line by Ralph Waldo Emerson: ‘A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.’ Logical and rules-bound is not the way for creative writers. Oh men of little faith!

That is to say: Creativity is fooling around; a lot of creativity is a lot of fooling around. That’s what I meant when I wrote earlier, ‘Genius is 10% perspiration and 90% inspiration’ (‘My Law Of Graffiti,’ January 22, frankahilario.com). As much as you can play the fool, as much as you can be creative. (I’ll tell you more of this in the forthcoming Chapter 3 of my book The Rebel Writer’s Guide For Non-Dummies. You are reading Chapter 2.)

But before you can fool around with the PC, you have to be the master of the software, that is, the word processor and the operating system.

Actually, many people decline to use the PC because they are awed by it, or think they are too old or too stupid to learn, or don’t realize how they can improve productivity tremendously. This is not to mention that quite a number don’t want to improve their productivity at all – they only work for the money. Certainly, I say to you, already they have their reward.

Here, I will assume that you are none of those rejecters of the PC, and that you know that you will write better if you knew more about your software. ‘I can’t be bothered’ and ‘That’s the work of my secretary’ and ‘I can afford to pay somebody’ are each a lazy man’s excuse, or that of a writer who doesn’t want to be good at what he’s doing. So, what do you want? Me, I want to be the best!

For the last 33 years, I’ve been doing a tremendous amount of a wide variety of writing, and on most subjects from abaca to zealots, from birds to youth, from computers to women, from dearth to violence, from entrepreneurship to understanding, from fatherhood to theory, from growth to science – public and private, technical and popular, paid for and unpaid for. I started using a word processor (worp) 21 years ago. Been there, done that. So I know it’s best that you use a worp in each of what I call the 5 Rs of writing, whether it’s popular or technical writing, creative or critical, and these are:

Researching – Whether from the original material or a copy of the source, it is best that you collect data & information using your word processor, since your electronic files are so much easier to work with: reading, searching, highlighting, tagging, annotating, copying, summarizing, reviewing again and again.

Recording – Typing and correcting. Making, reviewing and revising your drafts, from the first to the last, your worp is best suited for these tasks, what with the eminently practical flash drive for backup copies. The worp wasn’t much before the flash drive, when the eminently affordable storage material was the floppy 1.4MB disk that could easily catch a mold.

Reviewing – It’s best that you engage someone more knowledgeable than you are in reviewing or sample-reading your own work. I hope you find a mentor, not a critic: a mentor coaches, a critic curses. This is most appropriately done within an electronic workgroup. You have to learn to listen to others, even if you don’t follow all their advice.

Revising – Always remember that your word processor is not simply recording your words: it is in fact recording your thoughts, your ideas. These are what you work with when you revise. Why should you revise? Because you want to improve what you have written, the way you have said what you wanted to say. Now, should you want to improve? I say you should because, believe me, the first writing is never good; the second writing is never good enough. Only the third writing is good; the fourth writing is very good; the fifth writing is excellent. That is, if you know what you’re doing. (We’ll come to that in Chapter 8.)

Refining – This is the very last act of revising, when you feel you can now offer it to the world, when you add just a little where another inspiration hits you, or delete where you think it doesn’t hurt to remove, or when you just change a word or two. With experience, you’ll get to be very good at this yourself.

Yes, your best ally in writing is the word processor. And why not? The worp takes care of the routines of writing (like typing with tentative sentences, revising without retyping, doing the spelling check) while you take care of the creative (like tagging, moving pages about instantly using outline-organize and viewing the results). That is, if you want to be the best you can be as a writer.

Now then, let me tell you I have had 2 decades of immersion in the intensive use of worps: WordStar, WordPerfect, Word (from Version 1 to 2003). Last year, I tried Word 2007 but this worp made me look like a fool as I didn’t know any single command of it, me, a 21-year veteran of Microsoft Word! So I went back to the one I love. For my creative writing, which I have started to call ‘graffiti writing’ (see ‘My Law of Graffiti,’ frankahilario.com), I love Word 2003 because of its easy-to-use, productive outline-organize feature which, if my memory serves me right, was there right at the start, with Word 1, the one with the Alpha key, and which I began to master then, as I saw it early on as a powerful device for creative writing. (More on outlining-organizing in Chapter 3.)

In Chapter 2, which is this one, I want you to learn just 13 commands of Word 2003 with which to fool around with ideas out of the box in your creative moments.

First Writer’s Commands For Word 2003

(1) Undo & Undelete: Press Ctrl+Z immediately when you realize you have just made a mistake. Press Ctrl+Z many times and many things you did will be undone. Undelete is simply undoing a Delete. Works also within Word.

(2) File Search in Word: File, File Search, type your search word(s), click Go. Advice: If you want faster searching, click File, File Search, Search Options and enable Fast searching.

(3) File Save: Ctrl+S. Remember: You can use a long, descriptive file name to remind you later what this specific file is all about.

(4) File Save As: File, Save As, Save. You can change the filename if you like before you click Save. (Some people use this command to copy a file to other than the hard disk – I don’t recommend it – it’s bad file management. For file copy, see Commands for Windows XP below.)

(5) File Print: If you want all pages printed: Ctrl+P, then make sure the printer’s name is visible or correct, click OK. Better if you learn how to set up a printer. File Print Pages: If you want a page or selected pages printed: Ctrl+P, then type the page numbers you want in Page Range, Pages like this: 3-7, 11, 25 (hyphen indicates range).

(6) File New: Ctrl+N. Then, type a few descriptive words, which become the file name when you press Ctrl+S to save.

(7) Select text: Press F8 2x to select a word, press F8 3x to select a sentence, press F8 4x to select a paragraph. Ctrl+A selects a whole file. You can also select text using the mouse: Position cursor, press left button and drag the pointer.

(8) Repeat command: F4. This applies to any command, or series of commands (ending when you press either Enter or Esc).

(9) Find: Ctrl+F. You can use it to search for a character, word or their combinations. To repeat search: Shift+F4.

(10) Grammar & Spell Check: F7. A very simple command but very powerful, and yet people forget to use it or ignore it completely. You just follow the instructions after F7.

(11) Move cursor word by word: Ctrl+Arrow Right for next word, Ctrl + Arrow Left for previous word. Great for moving around, proofreading, editing, revising.

(12) Move cursor paragraph by paragraph: Ctrl+Arrow Up for previous paragraph, Ctrl+Arrow Down for next paragraph. Great for reviewing.

(13) View Print Layout: View, Print Layout. What you see is what will print more or less. The more accurate view is File, Print Preview. View Normal: View, Normal. I use this view when I want to Zoom in and make the words appear very large onscreen, say 200% Zoom. Great for viewing.

And I’m giving you a few Windows commands that will make your life a hundred times easier day by day as a creative writer:

First Writer’s Commands For Windows XP

(14) Your Own Desktop: Click Start, Control Panel, User Accounts, Create a new account, type your nickname, Create account. Then remember to always log on into your own desktop, so that everything you do there does not disturb any other user of the same PC you are using. Smart. On the Frank A Hilario’s PC, desktop or laptop, I have quite a number of desktop owners: Antonia, Bonafe, Daphne, Edwin, Frank, Jinny, Jomar, July, Paul. So, on Frank’s desktop, I have Maria Sharapova as my desktop background, the one with this caption: ‘I am not the next anyone. I am the first Maria Sharapova.’ Smart!

(15) File Search: On your desktop, click My Computer, Search, click on your kind of Search, type a word or two, click Search. This needs some mastery; once you get the hang of it, you’ll find it very practical.

(16) Backup copy: Click on My Computer, click Drive C or Drive D or other, right-click filename, click Copy, go to target folder, right-click to show menu, click Paste. Done. Or simply drag file from one folder to another.

(17) Make folder: Your PC’s main desktop is really a folder that everyone uses, so the files get mixed up (if you don’t have your own personalized desktop). Desktop or not, make your own folder! Occasional user or not, you need to create your own document folder for convenience. Click on My Computer; if you have a drive D – in our desktop PC, Frank’s files are in drive F and the rest of the Hilarios’ are in drive H on the 120 GB hard disk – click on that; right-click below the list of files you see, click New, Folder, assign it your name, and save your files there.

(18) My Documents: Don’t settle for the default location of your Documents. So that Windows will know where you want to save your files, right-click on My Documents, Properties, then type on the Target box, say F:Frank’s, OK.

(19) Briefcase: Right-click anywhere on the desktop, click New, Briefcase, then rename it as you wish, like Frank’s Briefcase.

(20) Flash drive: Insert into the proper USB slot and you can copy any number of files to it or from it. I create many folders in my flash drive (TwinMos 4GB), then copy one file at a time to the appropriate Briefcase. I open the file in the Briefcase, and when I quit Word, I go back to for instance, Frank’s Briefcase, I click Update all items – and I have an automatic copy of my file, the latest version, in the right folder in my TwinMos. That’s ultimate convenience. Flash drives and Briefcases are a perfect match. Thank you, Fujio Masuoka and Bill Gates!

That’s enough for you for today.

Today, Thursday, 14 February, Valentine’s Day, I’m finalizing this essay on my new, 7-day old HP Compaq Notebook with Intel Pentium Dual Core (CPU T2330) both clocked at 1.6 GHz, 15.4” display, 1 GB SDRAM, 120 GB hard disk. This Black Beauty comes with a free Bluetooth installation, legitimate copy of Windows Vista (Home Basic) and a 60-day trial copy of Office 2007. And you know what? I’ve been giving Word 2007 another chance for the last several days (I tried it early last year when it first came out and didn’t get to like it) – and I’ve junked it again. Since I use Word 2003 to write, edit and desktop-publish, I have to learn more than my 13 first-writer’s commands. And Word 2007 isn’t much of a help here. Right now, I’m using Word 2003 because I find it more writer friendly for the following reasons:

(1) Word 2003 builds on my habits of Word 1997, Word 2000, Word 2002 (Word XP). Word 2007 forces me to change my way of word processing (worping) and therefore my writing entirely. Word 2007 is the master, I am the slave. The worp has changed commands that the worper does not understand.

(2) Word 2003 is happy with even our lower-end 3-year old Intel Celeron desktop PC (I bought this dream HP notebook for interviewing people for a book I’m writing for UPLB Vanguards Class 58 and Class 83); my master Word 2007 requires that I buy more expensive equipment. No, Bill, your Word is not my command.

(3) Word 2003 is my slave while Word 2007 overwhelms me with its mix-match of icons and texts in a broad band it calls ‘The Ribbon’ – even if I minimize the Ribbon, it’s still confusing; it presents to me Home, Insert, Page Layout, References, Mailings, Review, View, Add-Ins. For the love of Bill Gates, I can’t see the logic in that grouping. It’s a programmer’s program, not that of a program user (prouser), certainly not that of a writer user (wrouser).

(4) Word 2003 is a gift to me as a prouser while Word 2007 is a tyrant, a punishment to me as a wrouser loyal to Bill’s Word. To change metaphor, it’s a divorce declared unilaterally by the husband despite the loyalty of the wife. A Filipino living in the Philippines, I have never believed in divorce.

Divorce is for people who want to fool around. I fool around too, but only with ideas. I mean creative writing is a lot of fooling around. You can’t fool around if you’re the slave, if you’re not the master of what you’re doing, of what you’re using.

I heard she has been writing essays. I wouldn’t be surprised if Maria Sharapova turns out to be a very creative writer one of these days. Already, she is master of her own game.

‘There are no tyrants where there are no slaves,’ wrote my hero, the Philippines’ National Hero Jose Rizal more than 100 years ago. No more slave. Master is better.

Explore posts in the same categories: mastering the PC, outline-organize, Word 2003

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