I don’t do boxes.
There’s a running joke in our family that I do words and my husband does pictures.
I write stories and columns and press releases and articles for nonprofits and clients. He paints pictures and helps find the money that pays the bills.
I do our bills and try desperately to keep us afloat. Being a freelance writer makes that a daunting task, but I make it work.
My desk is covered in scraps of paper with old-fashioned addition, subtraction, division and multiplication. I am putting my grandchildren-to-be on notice right now that NanaRock does not do New Math.
I did have to learn Excel to pass a Statistics class during my recent return to college. God bless the handful of friends who came out of the woodwork from all over the country (no exaggeration here, help came from Virginia, New York, Newhall and Sacramento) to teach me just enough to be dangerous and earn a C in the class.
I knew a little about Excel from some temp jobs in my distant past and have had to use it a bit doing some lists and data management for public relations work.
I even have a copy of Excel 2010 for Dummies on my desk. I swear it has been cracked open, but that program that “everybody loves” is still the six-foot wall I never got over in the police academy.
Recently I was asked to put information that I’ve always put in lists into a spreadsheet.
The mere word gives me the creeps.
Spreadsheet. Numbers. Data. Little boxes in which there is never enough room.
I know, I know, you can make the boxes as big as you need to. What happens then is that you have a spreadsheet (there’s that ugly word again) the size of a set of blueprints. I run out of tape putting them together.
Another task on my plate was to take a sprea- uh, boxy document – that someone had filled out and find missing or additional information.
I marveled at the paper’s variety of colors. I initially appreciated the neat organization of the columns and sections, but was soon overwhelmed by the repetition and brevity.
I had so many questions, but the potential answers hid under earmarks and notes that I couldn’t open.
There are people who have tried to teach me about Excel, but I think I found the problem.
I am wired very differently than those people who zoom through spreadsheets (ick). Like an allergy to peanuts, a gut-slam from gluten, an anaphylactic reaction to stings; I am physically unable to work in the world of boxes.
I have been a writer for too many years to compartmentalize. I practice penmanship and write thank you notes. Why do I want to put names, addresses and zip codes in boxes if I’m going to handwrite – or at least type – a personal letter? There is no warmth in merging columns, but there is in a well-written sentiment.
I am at the age where I want to spend the rest of my time playing in my word garden. Learning them, using them, introducing new ones to the world. Taunting, teasing, tempting readers with promises of interesting verbiage and honest emotion.
I’m too warm and fuzzy for a (choke) spreadsheet.
Seriously, my eyes start to glaze over and my brain, which is usually rational, despite random musical numbers and grand ponderances wandering through, hurts. Physically hurts.
I got through college because I endeavored to persevere, not because I was good at boxes. If I was anything, I was creative. Outside of people like Bernie Madoff, I don’t think anyone is really creative when they work with numbers in boxes, let alone words in them.
One of my mantras is accepting everyone for their own personal strengths. Those people who whip around a spreadsheet at the speed of light I hold in high esteem. Most of them can’t write their way out of a paper bag. That’s my superpower.
So don’t be surprised when the call goes out to assemble, this avenger will show up with a notebook and a pen.