You Did… What… to Your Keyboard?

I wore it out.

Yesterday was a marathon. I wrote for at least eight hours straight. Revised and added new material spanning 23 pages. I closed the computer, watched Gladiator and sewed spats, and then went to bed.

This morning, I woke up, turned on my computer, and my password wouldn’t work. I was locked out.

It took many tries before I realized what the problem was. My “n” key wasn’t working.

Finally I got in, and realized that it wasn’t just “n.” It was “a,” “b,” “n,” both “shifts,” and “enter.” You could make them work a little bit if you rolled your finger back and forth on the key for several seconds at a time, but even that wasn’t predictable.

Clearly this was not an acceptable state of affairs. So I packed my computer and headed to Best Buy, its point of origin, hoping that there was just something stuck under the keys (You know, those things that creep around getting stuck under keys at 2 am when the computer is shut.)

The Geek Squad, unfortunately, couldn’t do a thing for me, but did point me down the road to the best computer repair shop in town, the Bad Apple.

I pulled up in front of the Bad Apple and got out… but there was a sign on the door. Today, it said, the good people of the Bad Apple were taking a special lunch break and would be back at 3 pm. It was 2:30.

So I got back in my car and sat in the heat, sweating in my black Blind Guardian t-shirt, intermittently reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and texting my best friend morosely.

There was a line when the employees returned. One extremely talkative woman dropped her computer off and, while they ran diagnostics, sat there cheerfully, greeting everyone who came in, asking them, out of curiosity, what was wrong with THEIR computer?

It made me wonder if folks ever do that in the hospital–you know, cheerfully discuss and compare maladies just because, after all, everyone who’s there has got one. Common ground, you know.

Eventually it was my turn. I gave them my computer, wrote down all my passwords, and explained what was going on.

“We’ve got a two week wait list on PCs right now,” said the repair man. (I have gained a new respect for computer repairmen. Handling people stressed out about their damaged electronics has got to go on the list of most-unpleasant-jobs-ever.)

“I’m a writer,” I said. “I can’t just leave it here for two weeks.”

“You could leave it here for a day for a free diagnostic.”

I liked the sound of “free,” but I’d driven over an hour to get there and said so.

By now, our conversation had reached the ears of someone in the back, someone who had the authority to open up my computer then and there. “We get a lot of people coming from Oak Harbor and Anacortes,” he explained. “We like to get their stuff back to them the same day, if possible. I’ll open it up right now and see if there’s anything we can do.”

For the next two hours, I introverted quietly in the corner of the repair shop, listening to the loud lady cheerfully inquire about strangers’ computers and strike up conversations with them. I avoided eye contact and eventually went back to my car to get my book. I was developing a massive headache and was in no mood to discuss my computer’s health.

“Oh!” her voice cut across the waiting room a few minutes later. “You’re reading Harry Potter! Those are my favorites; I’ve read them like twelve times. I keep telling people they need to read them, and they say, ‘Oh, those are kids stories.’ My mom, she said, ‘Oh, I don’t like books about magic.’ But they’re about SO much more than magic, aren’t they? Which one are you on?”

She would be a Harry Potter fan.

I was saved by the repairmen–her computer was ready now.

The crowd dwindled, and finally I was the only one left in the corner.

“Erika?”

I got up, somewhat reluctantly, to hear the verdict.

“So, your keyboard needs to be replaced. We can order a new one and replace it ourselves, or send you the link and you can just order it and bring it in. It’ll cost about $60 to replace.”

“All right…”

At this point, the mysterious guy in the back who’d been performing surgery on my laptop came up to the desk. He had a beard and was wearing a Goonies shirt. I decided I liked him. “You know, I wouldn’t take this apart more than you need to.” He listed off a long litany of the things he’d found, including missing or broken screws and the like.

“What exactly does that mean?”

He shrugged matter-of-factly. “It’s wearing out. It’s going to die eventually.”

I laughed. “So… I really should just get an external keyboard and save up for a new computer.”

“That’d probably be best.”

“Well… I appreciate your honesty.”

Sorry I couldn’t give them more business, I left and headed back to Best Buy, where I acquired the cheap USB keyboard I’m typing this post on. It’s ungainly but, hey, I can write on it. And even having to replace the computer soon is not such a big deal. If I do well at my next couple of craft fairs, I should be able to replace it before the end of the year, no problem. Provided the car doesn’t die again, but that’s always a variable.

I should be more upset about my computer’s demise than I am. I think at this point I’m just a little astounded and proud of myself, though.

Because, according to the good fellows at the Bad Apple, my keyboard died from sheer use.

I wrote so much I wore out my computer. 

It actually feels kind of badass.

 

 

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I Wanted This… Why?

Turns out there’s a great deal more romance in WANTING to have plenty of time to write my story than there is in actually having the time and trying to write. It’s so much easier to roll one’s eyes back in distress and complain about the agonies of never being able to commit your worlds to paper than it is to actually do it.

But I don’t think these things through. Not till, you know, I’ve saved my tail off and eaten rice and beans repeatedly and started a new business and actually made my summer-to-write happen.

One fine summer’s day not too long ago, I sit down, open my computer and start reading my last draft of Book 1, just, you know, to get a sense of what I still need to do to it.

And Chapters 1 and 2 are actually a delight to read. See? This isn’t so bad! I’m going to finish this thing yet.

Then I hit Chapter 3 and get an odd sense of deja vu. Didn’t that conversation between two main characters already happen? And wait, why are they suddenly pretending that they know nothing about the very important issue that they already discussed in Chapter 2?

My valiant all-day read through comes to a halt at Chapter 7. It’s too much of a wreck to keep reading. All that mess needs to be reworked before I can even begin to formulate what needs to be done to the remaining 2/3 of the draft.

I have made a full page of notes in a separate document. And I have become thoroughly disgusted with myself for imagining this kind of labor as some sort of reward. I send a few moaning, depressed texts to friends, wait for their gratifying responses, and decide to sew cravats for the rest of the day. At least THAT feels productive.

Writers are such masochists–this isn’t fun. Not in the least. It is, in fact, forcing me to confront the fact that I’m not very good at what I most want to do, and that I do not, a great deal of the time, actually want to do what I tell everyone I most want to do. It’s forcing me to confront all of my inadequacies and insecurities. It’s depressing and time consuming and frustrating. And it is NOT fun.

I open up my computer and begin making planned changes to Chapter 1.

Now, three days later, I’m finding myself wishing that I didn’t have plans this weekend so I could start sorting things out on paper, organizing the wreck that is Chapters 3-5, breathing new life into it, wrangling with the characters until their words and facial expressions come out so right that I’m smiling like an idiot and reading it out loud to my cats.

It’s just a different kind of work, and in a way, harder than my usual summer jobs. It’s not even work I’m sure I want to do half of the time. But I’m somehow driven to it. I know that I will be more unhappy if I never do it than if I make myself sit down and do it. And who knows? Maybe, someday, something will show up on paper that validates everything.

So bring on the pain, summer. I have been waiting for you.

 

 

On Blogging Again and Opening New (Classroom) Doors

I could sit around all afternoon and explain in great detail all the posts I wrote in my head between last January and right now. Life hasn’t exactly been boring, and I’ve had plenty to say. I just haven’t said it.

I could have written about the heavy days following the almost-breakup I was writing about in January… but that seemed hypocritical in view of the relatively positive note I’d last ended on. Also, I doubt it would have made very good reading.

I could have written about the really cool Tom Bombadil painting I did (after all, isn’t that one of the reasons I have this blog? To write about my art?) But the time came and passed.

I could have written about my close friend’s struggle with mental and physical illness this summer, but that was not my story to tell. Besides, I didn’t want to embarrass her.

I could have written about my reactions to the whole gay-marriage debate, but I’d grown far too tired of everyone yelling at each other and no one thinking straight (I know, I know, horrible pun) to subject myself to that same scrutiny (cowardly, I know). Also, by the time my thoughts on the matter had begun to gel into something resembling coherence, everyone seemed to have moved on to Cecil the Lion.

I could have written about writing, but, after all, isn’t it more time-effective to just go ahead and write the novel instead of writing about writing? (Besides, my summer job consumed so much of my time, I barely wrote. Why write about writing when you’re frustrated about not being able to write much in the first place? Talk about counterproductive!)

The time for excuses is past, though. A new school year is upon me, a new convention season is coming up, more people are going to be taking my business cards and looking up this hapless blog… so I’d better post something worth reading, sooner rather than later.

And what I’m going to post is, surprisingly, that I’m thankful to be still here, still posting. I’m thankful for the bad times and the good times I’ve had since January. Because even though there’s been an awful lot of awfulness this year, all of that awfulness has, I think, had its good sides. It’s refining me into a person who is better able to face life fearlessly and love others even when things seem bleak. It’s teaching me to take action, to cut out things that aren’t really worth my time and energy so I can focus on the things and people who really do matter so much to me.

And also, all of this has somehow inexplicably made me very thankful to be starting a new school year. I feel at home in my classroom, almost safe, settled. I love having students come to me, watching their faces light up as we talk about things that I love. I love seeing them learn. It is a beautiful thing.

It’s also, I might add, a particularly exciting school year. After years of such low numbers that most other schools would have given up, my little Christian high school has expanded… we’ve grown from the six students we started last year with to twenty students (!) from 6th through 12th grade. For the first time, I’m teaching middle school. For the first time, I’m teaching enough classes to merit having my own classroom (!!) which I spent way too much decorating. There was a lot of energy and excitement leading up to this past week, the first week of school.

And then the students came in the door.

And, after a week of organized chaos, the rhythm of a new school year has begun to settle–and it is good.

With this rhythm, I’ve even had time to work on my story. And, later today, I fully intend to get a new art project started. I’ve got big plans to do an Eowyn piece before GeekGirlCon next month. Maybe, if the first one goes well, I’ll even do a set.

I guess there’s a reason we have seasons. There’s a sense of refreshment as an old season closes and a new season starts, as a summer ends and a new school year begins.

It’s just enough refreshment to kick me into blogging again. Maybe I can keep it up for a while this time.

In Which I Return to My Blog

Hello, everyone… the few of you who actually read my ramblings!

I am back, after a several-month absence, and I plan to be back for some time. You’ll excuse my absence; I wrote a book. Well, at least a draft of the first book in a trilogy. It’s not the first draft of the book, but I’m hoping it will be the final rough draft– a draft where I have nailed down plot and characters to a certain extent, and will be able to move forward with more detailed editing instead of just moving around and changing large story chunks.

And yes, I will begin work a new draft of Book Two as soon as the school year is off to a good start.

I do plan to add posts about my writing process as well as writing in general to the blog as time allows and the ideas strike. I have been working on this story for about seven years now, and there is no end in sight– although it’s come a long way from the original college-class short story that spawned the epic. It’s fantasy, very traditional fantasy, that allows me to develop a delightful cast of characters and put moral questions to myself and ponder them in a story context. It’s a chance to swing around a sword, save a few lives, and experience a world where good and evil are at least partially personified. It’s worth the work.

The art will continue, the teaching will continue, the kitty stories will continue– and I look forward to sharing elements of my writing journey with you as well.

Here’s to more blogging and the stories to be written still!