Last week, my laptop screen acting up intermittently to being practically unreadable. So I made an appointment at the Apple store for our next trip to the city.
When I got to the “Genius Bar” there, the screen behaved perfectly. (Of course!) But when I described the problem, the Genius Bar guy frowned.
He asked me a few questions, did a few things with the computer, and then said the likely two problems were serious enough that my only computer was headed for an unplanned “vacation” at Apple Repair.
He asked if I had backed up my drive–“Of course,” I said, “That’s not just my writing, it’s my life.” He laughed, assured me that my computer would most likely arrive on my doorstep, healed, in seven days. I watched in shock as he carried my computer away.
The rest of the afternoon, while Richard went through his every-two-week pre-chemotherapy infusion testing, I thought about my laptop. Even though my drive was backed up, I still wasn’t prepared to be without it.
How would I manage email, blogging, Facebook, and Twitter? How would I post my daily haiku and photo, not to mention working on the current book proposal?
I tried not to panic, but honestly, my laptop is more than just technology: its my electronic writing tablet, my connection to the wider information-world, my creativity tool and filing system, and the repository of all of my recent writing, photos, accounts, and correspondence, not to mention my contacts and calendar…
The next day, while Richard snoozed through the two-and-a-half hour chemo infusion process that we hope will slow his brain cancer, I got out the iPad I hadn’t yet learned to use and set to work.
By the time we got home that night, I was competent enough with its virtual keyboard to journal and communicate well enough. I hauled out the paper copies of my source material for the book proposal I was working on, and went to work with a pen and post-it notes.
By the end of the first laptop-less work day, I was used to my new (old) technology of pen and paper (plus the iPad when I needed to go online). I could also see the bad work habits I’d unwittingly acquired. With my laptop, it’s much too easy to get stuck on a thought or a tricky sentence or narrative flow issue, and instead of just sitting and thinking, I say to myself, “I’ll just check my email while I’m thinking.” Or look at the news, or visit Facebook or Twitter, or read a blog, or the weather forecast, or… anything but write.
I resolved to change those habits. If I get stuck with my writing, I no longer distract myself by chatting with friends and fans, or surfing the net. I go outside instead, into our garden with its view of the peaks over town. I listen to the birds, feel the sun on my face, and smell a flower or two. And then, refreshed, I go inside and sit back down to wrestle with the writing.
Don’t get me wrong–I love the communication and community woven of the digital ether. I feel very fortunate to have the companionship, support, and wisdom of so many incredible people. But in order to keep my sanity in this difficult journey with Richard’s brain cancer–heck, in any life–I need to focus on my writing when I’m not focusing on taking care of the guy I love. By changing my habits, I’m doing a better job of taking care of me, too.
And after a week of applying those new habits, I finished that book proposal. It’s good too, one of the best I’ve ever written. Yes!
And now, I’m going back to writing–without distractions. What about you?