Lost in Portents

Much like the ancient Romans, I tend to believe in signs and oracles. Not, mind you, to the point of throwing sacred grain to the sacred chickens and deciding whether I should proceed based on whether said chickens peck at the grain or refuse to eat. Nor have I studied the entrails of a sacrificed lamb in order to determine my destiny.

But some days are filled with so much frustration and some tasks meet so many obstacles and interruptions that I do wonder, Should I step back and rethink this?

This afternoon I finally typed my way to the ending of a plot synopsis despite phone interruptions and the arrival of the lawn guy. Of course, there are times when I’m on a deadline. Then I don’t answer the phone and I ignore the lawn guy. This, however, was not such a day.

Despite everything, though, I finished the synopsis on time. I was pleased. Still, my aging computer is wobbling enough to concern me. I debated whether to print out the synopsis and sample chapters or save a backup somewhere. I was tired. It was the end of a long day. Although I consider a hard copy the safest means of backing up, I didn’t want to wait for the equally elderly printer to wheeze out 47 pages. And I didn’t want to walk to the opposite end of the house and back to fetch a thumb drive. (Because why would I keep a backup thumb drive sitting next to my computer?) And before you start firing suggestions my way, let me state that I don’t use The Cloud nor did I want to email this manuscript to my day-job computer in this particular instance.

A few months ago, I yielded to the urging of well-intentioned friends and purchased an external hard drive. This afternoon, I thought, why not grab it and back everything up? I’ve been meaning to do this anyway. How long could it take?

Five hours later, I have yielded by copying the file to my thumb drive. I just finished printing out a hard copy from the slow but still faithful printer.

The hard drive–useless, mysterious thing that it is–has been returned to the shelf near my desk. I failed to back up anything onto this sleek black box. I may or may not have installed it. There’s a new icon on my desktop screen, which makes me believe it might be there. But having found myself in some kind of endless Groundhog Day loop of installing, waiting, installing, waiting, choosing my installation language, waiting, installing, waiting, choosing my installation language, waiting, etc., I’m not sure what, if anything, was accomplished. Restarting the computer to finish installation locked up the old machine. Which meant crawling beneath my desk and systematically unplugging each cord from the battery backup until I finally turned off the desktop.

During these sorts of rescue missions, I always feel like someone trying to perform brain surgery with a paring knife.

With the computer unlocked and operational again, I searched around for instructions. A file titled “Quick Reference Guide” seemed to be the ticket. When in doubt, read directions. Right? Yes!

Except that in this case, the Quick Reference Guide spent three pages in English informing me that the hard drive has a warranty that expires in two years. End of information. The rest of the guide repeats this message in perhaps a dozen other languages. Clearly the reference guide will never assist me in figuring out how to transfer a file from my Word document to this particular external hard drive, let alone open anything.

At that point, I gave up. I started printing out my file. And I fetched the thumb drive, copying the file onto it in a few seconds. Easy-peasy. Had I gone ahead at the end of my writing session, I would have enjoyed peace of mind all evening with the task done quickly and efficiently instead of tearing out my hair attempting to work an unworkable piece of equipment clearly not designed for non-androidbrain users such as myself.

Of course, other hindrances slowed the process. Other programs were lurking in cyberspace, waiting to pounce on anyone trying to install something new. Adobe had a new version of Flash for me. Then Java wanted to download its 71st update. Don’t you think there’s something a bit alarming about that number?

Now, as I’m typing this post, the computer cursor is moving like sludge. I’m typing blind with the letters crawling across my screen in a three-second lag. Either all this installation/updating has done something harmful like infect my computer with a virus, or a new problem has arisen.

At times like these, as much as I appreciate how modern technology has made my job as a writer easier in so many ways, I’m ready to throw in the towel and go back to writing manuscripts by hand.

But then I guess writer’s cramp and tendonitis would plague me.

(The lag has increased to maybe ten seconds or more. All the signs and portents are shouting, “Stop writing. Put all technology away. Shut down and give up for the day.”)

Some days, writing in stone with a hammer and chisel has to seem easier.

As the Brits would say, I’m having a bit of a moan. And I suppose I will have to give up, give in, and give my credit card yet more usage as I go purchase the different brand of external hard drive that I should have bought in the first place.

P.S. I just found an obscure button that took me back to “classic mode” in Word Press. Lo and behold, no more sludge typing! The problem in the typing lag belongs to Word Press and not my creaking computer equipment.

It’s a relief to remember that occasionally the fault does not lie with this operator.

Meanwhile, I’m hoping that come tomorrow the portents for writing will be more favorable.


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2 responses to “Lost in Portents

  1. Nathan

    Try hooking up the hard drive, then cursing at it . If that doesn’t work, throw it across the backyard. It won’t make it work, but it’s really about the stress at this point.

  2. What a splendid suggestion! I think that’s the perfect thing to do.
    🙂 Deb

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