O frabjous day!

The prodigal laptop has returned.

The new hard drive is in place. Printer drivers, camera software, and antivirus program have been installed.

MS Word is being a bit passive-aggressive in refusing to open a couple of documents I wanted to transfer from the flash drive. Open Office stopped downloading for no apparent reason, but–

My laptop is back. On my lap.

I hate to say this, considering that David went to so much trouble figuring out how to back up the old hard drive, but I sort of like the laptop in its current state of pristinity.*

One column of icons runs down the left side of the desktop. Dozens of old icons have vanished: the files I threw there so I could postpone deciding where to store them; the files I threw there because I was afraid I’d forget where I’d stored them; the files I threw there because I intended to move them to the recycle bin in just a few minutes.

The desktop is so clean and neat. It’s like I tidied it up myself.

And the Documents folder is empty: a clean, white box that affords room to breathe.

At a Writers’ League of Texas meeting last year, author Cynthia Leitich Smith said she composes a first draft quickly, then prints it out and writes all over the hard copy. Then she disposes of the print-out, deletes the file, and begins a second draft from scratch.

I thought that was the bravest thing I’d ever heard, so brave it bordered on crazy.

But now I think I know how she must feel: an Incredible Lightness of Being. No old draft plucking at her clothing, pulling her down.

Of course, I don’t really know how she feels, because I haven’t disposed of anything. It’s all on the external hard drive, waiting to be reloaded.

We think.

And as I told David, if it isn’t there, so what? Most of what I care about is somewhere–on a flash drive or attached to an e-mail I sent myself–and what isn’t somewhere probably wasn’t worth saving.

Anyway, I had saved so many drafts of the novel under so many different names that I often became confused about which I was supposed to be working on. Now I have the crummy rough draft and the less crummy third (fourth? fifth? sixth?) revised beginning. That’s enough for anyone.

I talk big at 11:45 p.m. CST.

In the morning, things might not look so rosy. I might be repenting that attitude all over the place.

But I’ll think about that tomorrow.

For tomorrow is another day.

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I know pristinity isn’t a word. But it should be. Once upon a time, chortle wasn’t a word either. If I’m going to get into the OED, I can’t spend all my time kowtowing to dictionary.com.

Silver Linings

After yesterday’s post, I believe I owe it to you–and to myself–to write about my Silver Linings.

When I got home from Just for the Hell of It Writers (by way of the grocery store) this afternoon , I found a FedEx tag clipped to the door. Two packages, it said, had been delivered to the office of my apartment complex. They’d been dropped off at 2:00 p.m.

I called the office to confirm it was open before walking down there. The manager said she had no package.

I went online to track the packages. The FedEx website said they would be delivered on Monday. This is Friday.

I called FedEx. Customer service said the packages were back on the truck and would be available for pickup today from 6:00 pm. to 9:00 p.m. and tomorrow from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

When David came in from work, I reported all this. He said we could retrieve the packages tonight. But because I had a migraine hangover–I woke up this morning with the darned thing and by evening still felt as if I were made of eggshells–I said I’d wait until tomorrow. Except for the pain of laptop withdrawal, there was no rush.

Then, out of the blue, came a robust knock at the door. Ernest and William scrambled up the stairs to safety. David ran to the door.

A young woman in a FedEx uniform stood on the sidewalk, holding a clipboard and two packages: an external hard drive and a replacement hard drive.

“I tried earlier, but the office wasn’t open,” she said.

I thanked her and told her we’d planned to pick up the packages ourselves.

“Then I just saved you a trip.” She grinned and walked back to her truck.

That young woman saved me more than a trip. Because she made a second attempt at delivery, my headache of a day took a sudden upturn. She was my first Silver Lining.

David was my second. After I hooked up the external hard drive to the laptop, he spent two hours trying to back up the wonky internal hard drive so it can be replaced by a non-wonky one. Unfortunately, the manual accompanying the external drive was short on instructions. It told, in four languages, how to connect and to disconnect the drive but not how to use it.

A third Silver Lining, however, appeared in the small print: the address of a website offering tech support. It was too late to speak to a technician, so David e-mailed the question. We’re waiting for a username and password so we can access the answer.

So there’s tomorrow’s Silver Lining: instructions about running the necessary backup, and then installation of the new hard drive. And finally I’ll be back in business–in a comfortable chair.

I realize I did things wrong. The song says, “Look for the silver lining.” I didn’t. I looked at the migraine and the idle laptop and the uncomfortable chair and the work I wasn’t getting done.

Nevertheless, Silver Linings appeared.

The mystery here is why I’m so surprised. After all, I’ve been married to a Silver Lining for the past six years.

An Ever-widening Wilderness

Okay. Enough of this sweetness-and-light, writing-is-my-life, revising-is-a-glorious-process, retreats-are-so-inspiring, the-daily-miracle-will-come baloney. Writing stinks.

Last night, no matter how hard I tried to make the technician at the other end of the line understand that the problem was caused by a short in the ground wire on the keyboard, and was surely related to the March 30 keyboard malfunction, he kept insisting that my hard drive is going out, and he made it clear that if I wanted to get to bed before 1:00 a.m., I’d stop asking questions and agree with him.

Back in the good old days, when faced with equipment failure, I just asked my daddy to get out his pocket knife and sharpen my pencil. But now I have to wait for the external hard drive to arrive, and back everything up–and I don’t want to hear one word about not having it backed up already; the critical things are on a flash drive and in my e-mail–and then call the service technician and tell him I’m ready for him to replace the hard drive. Of course, he will have already have called me, and I’ll have told him I’ll call him after I’ve received the external hard drive and run the backup.

That was Plan #2. Plan #1 was to send the corrupted hard drive to the factory and lose everything.

It’s enough to turn one into a raving Luddite.

Then there’s The Chair. For the past two years, I’ve sat in a recliner, feet up,  laptop on my lap, and typed away. The most discomfort I’ve felt has come from Ernest draping himself over my left forearm, and that’s not too terrible. At fifteen pounds, he’s not heavy enough to completely stop blood flow to my fingers. As long as he keeps his paws off the touch pad, I can work.

But now I’m sentenced to the desktop, which means sitting in The Chair. I love The Chair. It’s been in the family for over a hundred years. It’s an office chair. It wasn’t meant for sitting. A little while ago I sneaked upstairs and stole my husband’s vintage-1950s plastic chair with the wide contoured seat. It’s some improvement but I might as well make an appointment with the massage therapist while I’m thinking about it.

And what else? The Just for the Hell of It Writers meet tomorrow morning, and my critique partner, bless her heart, has decreed we must show up with fifty pages. Each. She has well over fifty pages of a coherent draft. I have a zillion pages of nonsense, rubbish, bilge, bunk, drivel, gibberish, hooey, hogwash, piffle, stultiloquence, and tripe. And that’s just the beginning. I haven’t even started on the adjectives.

Actually, it’s not all tripe. Some parts are decent. If they were adjacent parts, I’d be working on them now. But they’re scattered, and I’ll have to go looking for them, piece them together, and then fill in the blank spaces.

Furthermore, I’m sick of the characters. I’ve known them for a long time, and you know what they say about familiarity and contempt. If I had my way, I’d knock off the whole bunch of them: Miss Pinksie and all the suspects and Molly and her cousin Claudia and the Rat Butlerish love-hate interest and those cute twins. And the goat.

In addition, last week I received the Silver Lining Award, which made me smile, and here I am frowning before I’ve even had time to pass it on.

And to top it all off, I need to lose 900 pounds. By Monday.

The way things are going, that’s more likely to happen than my turning up tomorrow with fifty pages in hand.

In summary, writing is Sheer Hell. It’s a Vast Wasteland, like the tangle of cholla, prickly pear, dead brush, and dried grass in the photograph at the beginning of this piece, with splashes of yellow flowers and green trees representing false hope in an ever-widening wilderness.

Not that I’m complaining, of course.

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The photograph at the head of this post was taken at Paisano Baptist Encampment, near Alpine, Texas, during the Texas Mountain Trail Writers Writing Round-up. Paisano is a beautiful place. The opinions expressed in this post reflect the writer’s thoughts about writing and not about Paisano or the TMTW retreat. In fact, she likes cactus and dried grass and would love to drive so far back into a mesquite pasture that she can’t find her way out, an unlikely event in 21st-century Central Texas.