Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Size Matters

One of the presents Livia got me for Christmas was a 24-inch, flat-screen monitor for the computer in my studio, the computer I use for most of my writing. As I’ve mentioned numerous times, I had my most productive month ever while we were at the coast in October of last year, and all of that writing was done on a laptop. The laptop screen, however, was bigger than the screen on my normal monitor at home, and I thought that might have had something to do with how much I got written. Now, with the 24-inch monitor, I can bump the size of the print up to 150%, and that’s easier on my aging eyes, which have operated on the theory of bigger is better ever since that torn retina problem a year and a half ago. I know, I could always just increase the font size while writing and change it back to normal when it comes time to print, but that changes the pagination, too, and after all these years of using the same font and size, I’m set in my ways. (Courier New, 12, Bold, in case anybody’s wondering.)

Anyway, to get back to the new monitor, it’s huge, and I like it. At first it seemed too big, too overwhelming, until I realized that since it’s a flat-screen I had room to push it back about six inches from where the old monitor sat. That helped a lot. Also, the old steam-powered computer I use for writing doesn’t fully support it. The monitor instructions say to set the resolution on the computer to 1920 X 1200, but it won’t go that high, only to 1600 X 1200. It looks pretty good at that setting, a little stretched out but not enough to worry about. I’m sure I’ll get a newer computer eventually, but right now it doesn’t seem like it’s worth the trouble. All I know is, the way I work now is a far cry from writing my stories in longhand in a spiral notebook with a fountain pen, which is exactly what I did for the first few years of my career, including a bunch of short stories, some of those early Mike Shayne novellas, and my first two novels. I’m as nostalgic as the next guy, but I sure wouldn’t want to go back to that.

Today, for example, I wrote 20 pages on the new book, which I never did when I was writing in longhand, and actually considered it a fairly mediocre day. However, yesterday while I was working I knew something was wrong with the plot, but I never could figure out what it was. Today it seemed obvious, and I was able to fix the problem by deleting one paragraph and writing one to replace it. Would that all fixes were so easy. (I was trying to make the plot too complicated, if you were wondering. I struggle with that all the time.) So it was a pretty good day in that respect.


Graham Powell said...

Actually it's not the computer that determines the resolution, it's the video card. You could probably upgrade pretty cheaply, but new computers are so inexpensive it might make sense to upgrade the whole thing.

I'm only 39 but I've been staring at computer screens for over 25 years, so I always keep the resolution low - though my monitor is only 19 inches.

James Reasoner said...

No, I wouldn't upgrade anything on a computer that old. Are you saying that lower resolution is easier on the eyes? I'll have to try that.

Charles Gramlich said...

I recently got a big monitor myself for the first time and I like it as well. For much the same reasons. The only problem for me is that it makes the mouse a little bit harder to use. Possibly since I have short arms.