Scribbler’s Saga #18 – Write and Chew Gum

Posted: March 20, 2017 in Uncategorized

© 2017 G.N. Jacobs

In my ongoing attempt to be the George Plimpton of writing about writing, it appears I will take the occasional pavement digger just to be able to tell you what you already probably know. Writing is conducted from a seated or, if you finger tap on a smartphone, a reclining position and only a small set of other tasks (music) can successfully be conducted at the same time. In essence the old saying about people who can’t walk and chew gum has nothing on people who attempt to write and chew gum. 

Okay, the forensics on my fall. I’m out on my long walk, a journey for rain-free spring, summer and autumn days intended for me to burn off what I think are 1,500 calories minimum. My exercise bike that is my other main method of exercise tends to grind up my ass after about 1,000 calories elapsed; walking just works better, when the sun’s out. I finger tap my way through the first draft text seen in Picture 1. Clouds roll in likely to make this morning’s marine layer.

Something about the ergonomics of finger-tapping while walking doesn’t work for me relegating my technique to using my left thumb when my right index finger is how I do this normally. The index finger method likes me sitting down and using the iPhone’s landscape orientation. The few times I’ve tapped and walked the left thumb thing becomes the norm. Last night, no exception.

The slight discomfort of trying to start a modern fairytale using the aftermath of a fencing scene as a cold open gets to me after three slow going paragraphs. It just feels wrong on my body, so I shut down my Type n Walk app after I get enough text for the screen grab photo. Yes, I was also listening to my rock playlist on Spotify, but music actually is something we can do while writing. If you still have eardrums left after a lifetime of earbuds, I actually recommend tuning in while writing (more in a separate post).

So I walk along not actually writing and I fell on a dark patch of pavement rolling off my right arm and hand. Between the untied shoelace discovered after I sit up and the high curb I missed in the dark, yes, pavement diggers become slightly more inevitable. Oh yeah, I also tried to sign Change.org’s latest anti-Gröpen Führer petition, the charge ‘em all with treason and throw ‘em out petition. Apparently, just entering my info into text boxes for various online petitions is enough tapping to encourage a fall.


I fall forward. My right arm and palm heel (see Picture 2) brake the fall. I roll off over my right shoulder hearing the clatter of my phone on the concrete. I’m worried I might frak up my phone again, but my fairly thick case did its job this time around probably because high-impact phone cases are designed to handle glancing rolling hits better than straight drops. And so I sit up, delete the stupid Type n Walk app from my phone, shake it off and get walking again. Basically, I’m young enough where I can fall, not break anything, avoid hitting my head and then walk it off. Who knows about next time?

Now, what is this Type n Walk app? Like the name says it uses your phone’s camera view as a typing interface on the assumption that the average human being will hold the phone before them and finger tap getting our all important words out of our heads. It pretty much doesn’t work as advertised, because if you’re paying attention I used this app holding it in my left hand pointed slightly towards the ground where only my clumsy left thumb could work the keyboard. The guys who sold it to me a couple iPhones ago think that I should be able to hold the phone up to my eyes and tap with my index finger.

Since nothing about using Type n Walk for its alleged purpose ever felt well on my body, this app never really did anything but sit on my phone as an extra finger tap app…useless when I have the iOS version of Mobile Word, with home built templates that include automatic indents and things how I like them. When I copy and paste the text into Word from Type n Walk the current versions ultimately give me justified paragraphs which just adds work given that I type in single space. So, two factors for deleting an app that never worked the way I like, an affordable $0.99 experiment (not counting pavement diggers).


To be fair, I sort of worked up to last night’s fall. I few weeks earlier I used the same Type n Walk app on a treadmill at my mom’s retirement community. Yet again, I stopped after getting enough text for Picture 3 (picture taken after getting off the machine). Why? The same not terribly ergonomic writing feel (left thumb, etc.) came to the fore. The angles felt wrong like I wasn’t standing up straight. And so like the doctor telling his patient to take the sugar spoon out of his teacup I stopped.

But, since this is a post about where my personal limitations lie concerning my ability to write and chew gum, I almost went further on the same trip…turning off the radio in the car in favor of going voice activated with the Girl Siri voice. My thinking, I sing in the car all the time to the radio or Spotify. Easy-peasy-lemon-squeezey. Lasted two sentences, in part because my car is too new and too nice to risk with inattentive driving. But, yet again, the angles just felt wrong.

I’m reasonably certain my, count ‘em, two nephews with advanced degrees in variations of brain science/medicine might read this post and get a-slappin’ their cool uncle for massive stupidity. I feel surety they’ll bust out studies that say that the songs I karaoke to in the car exist in my mind due to decades of grooving to the music that helps define my life, a.k.a. rote long-term memory. And that trying to use Girl Siri to VO type my words while driving uses different brain circuits that aren’t well established. They blind with science and I just need to say the angles feel wrong. We’ll meet in the same place.

We now come back to my thesis assertion that for me my writing must take place when I sit or recline. I have sometimes pulled off a decent amount of words on my exercise bike with Spotify and earbuds on three-quarter volume. I have sometimes pulled off my words watching TV, but I generally stopped because if the TV show or movie on DVD is actually worth watching…respect the content so graciously provided. I’ve never even attempted the three-way sexapalooza of TV, writing and exercise bike for the same reason. And when I block out the time, I nine finger type with comparative blazing speed.

What is the common denominator of these short, brief and mostly failed experiments in writing and chewing gum? I sit/lie on my flat ass when I write, get used to it. I trust that you, Dear Reader, understand where your limitations lie and will play to your strengths (after laughing at me where I can’t see you do it) and write your brilliant words. And if you can pull off any of these potentially tragically stupid writing methods, against advice, you’re a better and cooler writer than I, Gunga Din.

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