On my first day without access to a computer, I didn't write at all. I was busy enjoying the zoo with my granddaughter--and besides, my arm hurt. Muscle spasms in my shoulder made my whole right arm limp and useless, with shooting pains when I tried to hold anything--a pen, a pickle, my granddaughter's hand. Good thing I had decided to leave the camera and computer bags behind on my trip to Idaho because I never could have carried them through the airport.
On my second day without a computer, I didn't write because I was in transit. My arm felt much better, but when called upon to sign the rental-car receipt, I used my left hand to lift my right hand up to the counter, and I did all my driving one-handed.
On the third day I started scribbling little notes on the conference program and on the backs of receipts and other little scraps of paper. I wrote down interesting concepts ("birderazzi"), titles of books and poems I want to read ("The Long Rule" by Nathaniel Perry, everything on terrain.org), unusual place names I saw in my travels (Excelsior Road near Spangle, home of the Spangle Gun Club, and aren't you just dying to see their club jackets?). Late in the afternoon I bought a notepad and started taking serious notes at conference sessions, but writing more than half a page by hand seemed daunting, the ideas dammed behind a solid block of pain and inadequacy.
This is it, then, I thought. I've dried up entirely. I don't need or want to write and if I tried to write I'd have nothing of any significance to say.
On my fourth day without a computer I woke up (too early) without pain and picked up the pen. The dam had broken; words started flowing out and refused to stop, filling my notebook with streams of ideas I can spend the summer following.
What happened to break up the dam? Terror--sheer, unadulterated terror caused by a long drive that took an unexpected turn.
But that's a story for another day.