White Moves First, and Other Deeply Ingrained Facts

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In my Math 2240 discussion section last week, I played my first game of chess in nearly two months. It felt like it had been forever since I last played chess. But considering how much I used to play it, I thought I’d slide back in easily. It turned out I did not.

There was one slight variation we added to the game. Instead of white moving first, we had black move first. This probably doesn’t seem like much. You would think that it is the exact same thing as a normal chess game, just that black acts as white and white acts as black.

But to me, I looked at the board and felt that something was eerily wrong. As someone who had spent a great deal of time memorizing openings, I am used to seeing certain patterns and positions on the board. This time I wasn’t seeing any of them. The piece colors and left-right orientation were messed up.

Because of the first-move switch, the game did not feel like chess. It felt alien, it felt like I was playing the game for the first time in my life.

Logically speaking, black moving first is not a different game. It is exactly the same as normal chess but with colors and left-right reversed. A computer AI would never know the difference. But for a human, there’s something odd when something you take for granted suddenly changes. It’s like you wake up one day and the Sun appears green. It’s still giving off plenty of light for everyone to go about their daily life. But it would still be odd. Odd enough that people would behave differently, even if they don’t have to.

When a fact as deeply ingrained as “White moves first” is violated, it sends a hell of a confusing message to our minds.

Does this apply to anything in real life? Other than for annoying or disorienting people, it seems not. It’s just something quite strange to think about.

How Important is Having the Right Mood in Writing?

Let’s face it—there are times when a writer feels like writing, and there are times when he or she doesn’t.

I’m currently stuck in the latter category, after losing interest in writing. It’s weird. The main difference, I believe, is that I have almost no writing in my classes this semester. Last semester it seemed I had a 2000-ish word essay due every week, sometimes two of them in one week; and I kept a consistent blogging schedule through that. This year, the longest thing I’ve written is 1000 words, and the second longest is 500. My blogging has also been random, but still substantial.

February 2011 writing statistics:

  • Word count of school-related works, combined: 1,900
  • Word count of blog posts, combined: 7,100

Compare this with the statistics for November 2010:

  • School-related: 9,800
  • Blog posts: 7,300
  • NaNoWriMo Novel: 50,200

Dang. That’s a total of 9,000 for Feb 2011 and 63,700 for Nov 2010. It means I wrote 7 times more last November than in the past month. Wow, this makes me feel like an uber slacker now.

Anyways, here’s the point of this post: I was supposed to edit the NaNo novel this month, March 2011. It seems, however, that I am just not in the mood for extensive writing. And in case you don’t know, editing and revising is QUITE time-consuming. It’s like writing a piece of Java code in 15 minutes, and then spending the next five hours fixing it so that it doesn’t break anything.

Even worse, now that I look at it, the plot of what I’ve got so far is terrible, and the characters don’t develop at all. It’s incoherent as a novel goes, partly because I wrote an ending to a different novel than I had envisioned when I started it, so that now the beginning and end aren’t cohesive.

It’s bad enough that I almost want to delete the word file off my computer and never see it again. I’m very ambivalent here. I just don’t want to leave it hanging there unfinished. But if I were to continue my plan of “editing” the novel, it would be less “editing,” and more “rewriting the whole damn thing.” Oh well.

So here’s the question: What should I do? I already have another project idea in mind if I’m going to not do the novel, and it’ll be an academic spin on something that is in itself not very academic. Thoughts?