Anyway, being without a computer this week has been an interesting experience, generally positive. I've been able to use my wife's computer for checking email, blogging, and other tasks, but for the most part I haven't missed anything important by not checking email frequently, or by not having constant access to a computer. In fact, my computer's absence has allowed (forced?) me to get a number of things done that had been hanging over my head for some time. I've read back issues of National Geographic, run errands, gotten various things ready for the coming of our new baby, fixed up the house we're rehabbing, and tomorrow I'm preparing a sumptuous Thanksgiving dinner of stuffed chicken on a bed of Andean tubers and vegetables. I've been getting physical things done as opposed to dicking around online.
Most interesting of all is that I hand-wrote a draft for a book review I've been wanting to do for some weeks now. It's been a very long time since I wrote an entire, coherent work by hand. I write a lot, between blogging, articles, translations, my diary, scientific reports, etc. I write my diary by hand, and I maintain a number of notebooks that I jot down ideas in. Even for my computer-typed work, I often write an outline on paper before sitting down to type. But I can't fathom when I last wrote the body of something entirely by hand.
The thought process differs between writing on a computer or on paper. When I use a computer, I often write paragraphs out of order as they occur to me, because I know that I can rearrange them later using the cut and paste functions. However, as I hand-wrote my book review I had to organize my thoughts better beforehand so they could be somewhat coherent. Obviously I'll edit again later, but I can't just write any old thing and expect to be able to work with it if it's stuck on paper in a particularly place, with a particular phrasing. It was also different to write out entire thoughts and sentences by hand, instead of mere fragments and notes to guide a later computer draft. Forcing myself to think things through and complete my thoughts on paper was a real mental exercise. I liked it a lot, and I hope that even when I get my computer back I'll have the discipline to continue writing some things by hand.