Rise of the robot writers? by Janine Donoho

Robot meets worldFor the last decade and more, makers of software have tried to lure writers into their electronic grasp. Their products fall far beyond our word processing needs. These programs claim to “unleash your creativity” with “programs to help you plan, structure and write your novel or…”

Your opus in an app or download. A quick search of “writing software” turns up 491,000,000 results—some free, but most? Not so much.

Since a law professor at my most recent alma mater raised a hue and cry for a “Department of Robotics”, I started thinking anew about how this tech has insinuated itself into so many areas of life. Vet robotic surgery, driverless vehicles, and algorithms fall into this general category. As do the aforementioned writing software/apps. Not quite Skynet—yet.

I, RobotDoes the trend explain the ongoing schlock issuing from the bastions of literacy in New York? And what of that oozing from Hollywood? Full disclosure: Intrepid Guy’s mancave hosts its share on our monstrously outsized screen. His love of all things tech issues from his ability to make inorganic electrons flow as he chooses.

Still… What elements imbue your favorite reads? Mine surprise me with reversals, hold characters that remain with me after I finish the story, and elicit true emotion. Yes, the opposite of the churning mill of boom, splat, boom that dominates blockbusters and movie screens. At risk of sounding cranky, I’m biased toward indie publishers, indie films, and indie bookstores.

Yet robotics has taken over the work of lower level accounting, law offices, assembly lines, and supposedly high level trading via algorithms. The results? Mixed. Hello, multiple stock market crashes.

Robotics is moving up our food chain, thus my question. Do algorithms trump the creative spark that makes us writers? Does the “boy meets girl by page 3”, “sexual sparks occur in chapter 3”, and so forth lend itself to this? And will we who write—and who begin that path as voracious readers—be satisfied with the results?Scary robot

Hacking the Writer’s Life by Janine Donoho

Primitive RoadNo one who knows me would accuse me of being a computer hacker. While the scope of digital life offered by computer, GPS, and yes, the Samsung devices beloved of Intrepid Guy, offer benefits, I occasionally need to read manuals. Despite my ongoing lust for cool tech, a smart phone or tablet’s at least a year into my future, mostly given where we live and the coverage we don’t yet enjoy.

Yet living a writer’s life requires hacks, too. For what is hacking other than breaking a code and getting where you are most likely not invited? Allow me to share a few with you.

Life hack #1: Feeding the brain via two universities, three community colleges, and then working as a gasp! woman in male-dominated fields.

Why is any of this pertinent to a writer? You learn to finish what you start, often under less than stellar conditions.

PupsicleLife hack #2: Winter version: Yaktrax, poles, neck gaiter, and ear warmers with the equivalent layering for the Italian greyhound. This gets us moving while preventing the dreaded pupsicle syndrome.

Yes, dear writers, we need to exercise our torpid bodies. Blood flow’s necessary to our hyperactive brains.

Bleh, bleh, bleh. But what does it take to become an author?” you ask.

Cover Collection 2Life hacks #3-12: Write a bodacious novel—or a googolplex of stories—or whatever it takes to learn your craft. Here’s a glimpse of my current oeuvres. Plus there’s the forthcoming launch of Soundings, Water Elemental in February 2015.

It’s a circuitous trail into hacking a writer’s life. No shortcuts here. Luck is involved—along with learning craft, critical thinking, and long hours in the writing chair. Although another hack has been my standing desk…

So while the initial burst of creative juices might trigger that moment of ah-ha along with entire scenes, character sketches, and plot devices, as writers we hack our way to core story, into character, and through process.

And those, my friends, are the subjects of future blogs. I hope you’ll join me for them, too. Until then, I recommend a daily hack attack into your own writer’s life.Tools of my trade

My Writing Habit by Janine Donoho

Airborne Italian greyhound

Airborne Italian greyhound

Early each morning—and even earlier as our earth tilts away from the sun and carries us into winter—Nina Sophia stretches out of her fluffy sheepskin pelt and cloudsoft binkies to hop onto the human bed where she burrows between duvet and blanket.

That’s my cue. You see, I’ve reached that blissful state where children and a day job no longer compel me. Thus I begin the slow ascent toward my enduring habit of writing. Intriguing visuals and thoughts float through my consciousness until I’m too full of inspiration to stay abed.

View from my snow cave

View from my snow cave

That’s when I scoot the groaning Italian greyhound over to my warm indentations and bolster her with a pillow, furnishing her with that sense of pack she craves. Then it’s off to wash the sleep from my eyes and slip into my work attire. Today that means soft flannel bottoms with loopy bunnies that exclaim “I love you” in girly pink and cream. Yes, blushing as I admit this, but hey, they were a gift from Intrepid Guy. Over a cami I layer warm wovens. After all, this is the far northwest beyond which “there be dragons”—and Canadians, eh? Plus it’s snowing.

Your-dream-doesnt-have-an-expiration-dateFrom a perpetual carafe replenished as necessary after my morning ritual, I heat a cup of dark roast mixed with a splash of soy. Off to my chosen place I go. Since I’ve been at this for decades, that space has been honed to my preferences. Thus I slip into fingerless gloves and spelunk into other worlds.

While many of my writer friends cultivate writing schedules that encompass Starbucks and other public spaces, solitude works best for me. I do enjoy the friction implicit in more lively settings, but not when it comes to getting the words down. For that I cultivate a more tranquil practice. And yes, whatever your artistic process, own it and bring consistency into your practice.

Now I’m back to my edit of SOUNDINGS, Water Elemental. Happy writing!

Red morning skies promise more uninterrupted time to write

Red morning skies promise more uninterrupted time to write

Soundings, Water Elemental

LaunchFebruary 27, 2015
The big day is here.

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