Writing Life #11

Aaaand… We’re back!

It’s been a while since I wrote about the Writing Life. Mostly because there hasn’t been a lot of writing in my life for the past two weeks or so. I’ve been busy with other things, including flying back and forth across the country (one time with an understandably cranky and quite vocal cat) and moving precisely one block away. (You would think a short move like that would be less of a hassle than a long one. You’d be wrong.)

On top of the hustle and bustle of everyday life, I also suffered a personal and professional tragedy when a trusted friend who’s seen me through nearly my entire writing career almost died.

No, I’m not talking about an agent or an editor or even a beta reader — I’m talking about my iMac!

Back in early 2006 (!) — before my first book had even hit shelves — I decided it was time for a new computer. So I bought what was, at the time, the state-of-the-art in Apple’s consumer line-up, a brand-new iMac. Maxed out the memory. Upgraded the graphics. It was good to go.

Since then, almost every word I’ve written has been on that iMac, with my trusty iKey keyboard. (I’m really picky about keyboards, and I don’t like Apple’s offerings. I’ve had the iMac for more than five years, but I’ve had the keyboard even longer, having used it with my G4 tower back in the day.)

So imagine my shock and horror on Friday afternoon as I sat down for a session at the computer…only to have the screen go black. No sound. No fury. Not even a vanishing white dot. Once moment, the screen was fine, the next it was black, as though the power had gone out. In fact, at first I thought maybe the power had gone out, but the lights were on, so no dice.

I checked the power cable, tried restarting… Nothing worked. Even muttering, “Come on, baby…” in my best Han Solo voice accomplished nothing.

Now, when your computer doesn’t even try to boot up, there are usually only two possible culprits: The power supply and the logic board. One of them is reasonable to replace, the other is not (especially in such an old machine).

Fortunately, I have a decent backup system, so I was certain my data was safe. Better yet, since I was sure the problem was the power supply or the logic board, that meant that the hard drive inside the computer was OK, so even if I had to replace the iMac, I’d still be able to get at the hard drive, in the unlikely event that my backup failed.

But I did learn a harsh lesson for myself in that moment: I had been working on a document for Colleen. She had sent me close to a hundred pages of art for the graphic novel and I was going through them, taking notes in a Pages document to send to her. When the computer died, that document went away for good, because I hadn’t bothered to save it while working on it. (Let that be a lesson to you all: Even if you think you’ll only have a document open long enough to type something out and then copy and paste it elsewhere, save that document!)

It’s not the end of the world, but now I have to do all of that work again. Don’t get me wrong — it’s an absolute pleasure scrolling through page after page of Colleen’s sketches and artwork, but… I just hate the idea of doing something twice, especially when I could have avoided it by not being a butthead and just hitting Command-S at some point…

But back to the computer: I made an appointment at the Apple Store, and on a hot (very hot) and humid (very humid) Saturday, walked over there with the unwieldy iMac box (yes, I still have the box it came in…) for a check-up. After a brief moment where I thought the problem might have been as simple as a dust-clogged grille, the tech confirmed that, yes, it was either the logic board or the power supply. But the store was so busy and the parts so out of supply for my old model that it would take a week to ten days before they could tell me which!

Now here’s where you need to understand something important about me: I am a creature of routine and habit. Remember: I’ve owned the same keyboard for going on ten years now! The thought of not having my computer for so long… If I knew for sure that it was just the power supply, I would be willing to wait it out. But if it turned out to be the logic board, I would just as soon buy a new computer right away. No point in waiting a week just to find out I need to replace it, right?

But I didn’t have that luxury: They would take a week to tell me which way things leaned. After some grumbling and panicking (creature of habit!) I decided to limp by for a week with my old iBook…which is even older than my iMac! (I bought the iBook for an emergency trip I had to make in 2005, just as I was beginning to write Boy Toyand didn’t want the travel to kill my momentum. I wrote all of Boy Toy on that computer.) If it was just the power supply, Ol’ Faithful would be back in service soon enough. If the logic board, then I would replace it. In the meantime, the iBook would stand in.

Came home. Hooked the iBook to my beloved keyboard. Started working on some tweaks to I Hunt Killers. Missed that nice, big screen.

And then…a mere two business days after dropping off the iMac — just when I’d convinced myself to buy a new one — the Apple Store called and said it was ready for pick-up! It had been the power supply after all, and Apple had fixed everything in record time.

So, yesterday I once again schlepped in the heat and humidity to the Apple Store, this time to bring my baby home. And now I am hard at work on I Hunt Killers. Soon, I will re-do that work I did for Colleen last week. And shortly after that, I will dive into The Book That Will Kill Me again. It’s a lot of work, and I have a lot I want to get done in the next month and a half.

But hey — it’s good to do it with the right tools. :)

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