About ten days ago, the best thing happened to me.
My computer went up in smoke.
No kidding. I was in my office, heard a sound like this — zwizzlescraaapp — my computer screen went blank, and two white clouds rose up from behind my computer, like Apache smoke signals. The message was clear.
Time to unplug everything and call the experts.
Do I backup? Not regularly like I should. Um, okay, the truth: no. Could there be serious loss? Yes, a lot of words down the drain. But for some reason, I felt reasonably calm about it. Brought my computer into the Apple Store and was told, what with the holiday and everything, I’d have to wait five business days for answers to these two questions:
1) Was it fixable?
2) If not, was the material on the hard drive salvageable?
That is: How screwed was I, exactly?
So I returned home and got to work. Grabbed a pen and a yellow legal pad.
I brought down the iPod from upstairs — needed my tunes, I wasn’t a caveman! — but otherwise didn’t have the distraction of the computer. Couldn’t blog, couldn’t Facebook, or surf, or email, or a hundred other computer-centered activities.
Okay, admittedly, I had access to Lisa’s laptop, but I kept it out of my office, sensing an opportunity at hand. Frankly: I was looking forward to my enforced time off-the-grid. To paraphrase Dr. Leary:
Turn off, tune in, drop out . . .
. . . and write.
As it turned out, I experienced a productive, rewarding, peaceful week. To the point where I received a phone call Monday morning from Lisa, excited with good news. “Apple called,” she said. “Your computer is fixed! You can pick it up right now.”
Good news, indeed. It will cost less than $200 for repair, much better than the expense of a new computer. Plus, of course, I get to keep all those old words I’d written.
So I set down the phone, pulled the pad back on my lap, rocked back in the chair, and continued working. I decided the computer could wait another day. Maybe two.
Quick comment: Work-wise, I had been in the rough, ugly, unshod, insecure & endless first stages of a new YA novel (and yes, please, do check in with Andrew Smith, author of Ghost Medicine and In the Path of Falling Objects, who is raising a mighty ruckus on the topic YA literature). I had written a lot of minor scenes, detailed notes, character sketches, snatches of conversation, false starts, dead ends, and a few promising beginnings. But my basic take was that the real value of everything I had done up to that point was in the thinking process, that portion of the creative process that’s more akin to live alligator wrestling than actual writing; it didn’t much that was polished and shined. Recovery of those lost words would be impossible, of course, but maybe a good thing. I was willing to roll with it.
At a later stage, losing a more complete, finished draft would have been very sad.
Which is why I always (cough-cough) backup my files.
By the way, thanks for checking back here; I know it’s been eerily quiet. The blog should be back on track.
But you never know.
If things bog down in the future, if productivity slips, I just might have to start a small fire . . .