Is Technology Getting In the Way of Your Writing?

when writing tools break words stop flowing

You Can Write

But are the WordPress plugins’ “tools” and “features” and “settings” and “tags” becoming a  distraction?  Today the WordPress “admin bar” stopped showing up at the top of my blog site.  Ordinarily I can log in, write something, preview it as it appears on the site, click on the dashboard, go back in and edit.  Now I can’t do that and have no idea why.

WordPress Plugins are great.

But they don’t always get along.  And the ways they change the writing interface can become a real pain.  The HTML tab on my Add New Post interface mysteriously greyed out and stopped working awhile back.  I don’t know why.  I can still insert HTML by clicking “edit your profile” and clicking “disable the visual editor when writing.” It’s a pain.

And this latest glitch has my blog not recognizing me as an admin, so my own clicks register in Google Analytics.  Hmmm, another exciting computing problem to troubleshoot.  In the meantime, I’m not using tools, I’m repairing them.

Which plugin is causing the problem or what setting? Was there an automatic update that changed things?  Questions demanding turning things off and back on.  Fiddling.  Wasting time.

The goal of writing is to organize words to fashion a transparent window on ideas

When your reader notices the writing, he or she is not immersed in content.  The window is dirty, or it creates a distracting distortion or lensing effect, or in the worst case, your reader’s window has become opaque.

Writing tools need to be similarly unobtrusive.  If I’m looking at the little submarine window in WordPress and constantly wondering about font size or headers (which drive SEO, don’t forget about SEO).  Or thinking about anything other than communicating with my reader, the tool has become a filter or even an obstacle.

When writing tools are not easy and fun, and especially when they aren’t predictable, they discourage writing.  Is my blog going to stop working entirely?  When tools generate problems, they turn a writer into a tinker.   So today I realized that the technology that is supposed to let me share my work had generated so many idiosyncrasies that I am no longer writing.  I’m peering into a tiny box, wondering what will go wrong next, and worrying which conflicted setting is going to hijack my concentration.

Today I feel like doing a Thoreau

I want to, simplify, simplify, thoreau WordPress away, and abandon this do-it-yourself technological Rubik’s Cube.  Maybe I will buy a professional theme that comes with all the caching, and compression, and internal links, and everything else the plugins do.  I want to stop thinking about buttons and switches and think about words instead.

Postscript — Appears to have been a setting, discovered at the expense of about an hour.

Post post script:  Found a great plug-in that solved multiple problems created by other plug-ins.

Why Computer Experts Are Like Rural Folk When It Comes to Giving Directions

If you’ve ever asked for directions in a rural area you may have run into a local character who knows exactly where he is.  He has been here his whole life.  He knows every nook and cranny of the countryside.

But he has great difficulty giving directions to an outsider.

Friendly and with every intention of helping you, he offers advice:

“Just keep driving down this road until you come to where the old MacIntosh place used to be before it burned down.   It’s right across from the old mailbox and near the rusty barbed wire fence.  Just take a right and keep going past the field where they hold the county carnival every summer.  Then take a left at the stump of the big tree that got hit by lightning a couple of years ago.  You can’t miss it.”

This well-meaning rural denizen knows exactly what he’s talking about.  Every word he utters is true.  He can imagine every detail in his mind as he describes it to you.

Unfortunately he does not share your frame of reference.  He can’t see through your eyes.  In fact, he is so immersed in his area of expertise and its vocabulary that he cannot distinguish  terms that need further explanation from those that don’t.

If pressed for clarification, he will earnestly expand on the obvious. “Well, a carnival is just like a county fair but without the agricultural exhibits and competitions.  No 4-H.  It’s mostly just rides.  What do you mean you don’t understand about the field?  It’s just a field, it’s not important for the rides except they can’t set up near trees.”

The local cannot see his world from the perspective of the uninitiated.  His only hope is to dispense information of all sorts – every bit of it obvious to him —  until the listener seems to “get it.”  This can take a long time and frustrate both the speaker and listener.

Now compare this to articles by experts on how to use blogging software, followed by pages of confused questions and equally confused answers.  Turns out, that users don’t need computer experts as much as they need experts at explaining unfamiliar subjects to the lost travelers of the Internet.

WordPress Tip#2: Header

Changing the header in Wordpress is simple, and easy to forget how you did it

WordPress Tip #2: Header

It turns out that the left Dashboard menu item labeled “Appearance” holds some of the most important tools in WordPress.  In fact, if you don’t change the appearance of your blog, it’s pretty much going to remain a generic Theme.

Change the picture on your Header with the following steps.  Click on Header, then Browse.  This let’s you look through your home computer files to find a new photo.  Don’t worry what photo you use, but if it’s a photo of you, it probably should be wearing clothes. You will the have an opportunity to select a portion of the photo to paste into the Header.   Go ahead and try it.  If you are using Theme Twenty Ten, you now will want to find a horizon-type shot that includes a section that is looong and not too tall.  Bonus Tip:  Remember how you changed your Header: Dashboard->Appearance->Header.  I forgot how I did it and had a devil of a time changing it.