Tuesday, October 7, 2008

I See the Light

(Phosphorescent minerals from the Franklin Mineral Museum...)

Yesterday, my computer crashed. In a little more detail, it all began with a paper jam.

I was reading manuscripts, critiquing, getting ready for my Tuesday night writer's group. I was printing out Jeanne's latest MS when my printer jammed. I cleared the paper and then my computer said an unknown USB port had attached itself to my computer.

My imagination swam with sci-fi images of alien life with suction cup tentacles clinging to the back of my computer.

I checked around, couldn't see any unknown aliens or USBs, so I did what I always do when my computer acts up, I re-boot.

BUT!!! When I rebooted, the computer froze on the opening Dell page and would not move from there. I pressed F2 and F12 to try to access the set-up or re-booting, but nothing. No reaction. Nada.

At first I was only mildly irritated and decided to re-boot again. But, again, my machine froze at that opening page. Again, I felt irritated, but not freaked out. I left it alone and decided to go to the kitchen to do a couple things. As the minutes ticked on, I began to panic. I went into a full blown, "I must fix this now" panic. Called friends for numbers of tech guys. Called some tech guys. I even cried a little, just a bit of high pitched panic fighting tears when I called my very own tech guy - my husband. I asked a friend, what is the Universe trying to say?

And then I wondered, what is the Universe trying to say? Here I was, with zip drive in hand, about to back up when my computer crashed. Here I am, days from a big writer's event where I needed my story, and my computer crashed. Does the Universe not want me to be a writer? Is it a sign about my writer's event? Maybe I shouldn't go??

Maybe we give the Universe too much credit.

But despite it all, somewhere, deep inside, I felt a sense of calm. It was small at first. But I felt it somewhere from within. I decided to let go of the fear and panic and go with the calm instead. My husband has fixed my computer before, I reasoned. He has recovered all my data before. I am going to relax, put my faith in him and know it will all be OK.

The thing is, I moved from panic to calm relatively quickly.... in maybe the span of two hours. For me, that's quick. Normally, I would have stayed stuck in panic until my computer was fixed. But this time, I really did trust. Inside, I was aware there was a piece of me shaking in fear, wanting to cry, rip my hair out. But I wouldn't succumb to that part of me.

My DH came home and within minutes, it was up and running again.

"How'd you do that?" I asked in amazement, spying two double A batteries on my desk.
"Well," he blushed, "I changed the batteries in your keyboard and plugged the printer back in. It was loose from the back."

I had visions in my head of this moment when my computer flashed with life again. I would wrap my arms around my DH's neck and exclaim, my hero. But batteries and a plug???

Well, he's still my hero, but I'm a bit embarrassed.

What did I learn from all of this. Like those phosphorescent minerals glowing in the dark, so was my calm. At first it was just a glow in the dark and my panic was at the surface. I decided to trade places. Put the calm upfront and the panic in the back. And, I saw the light.

I mean, I understand now. It's easy to panic when you wonder if you are about to lose your life's work. It's easy to panic when facing any potentially dangerous situation. But if you trust, if you believe somewhere within you, that everything will be alight, make the switch. Put your fear behind you and your faith in front. Things may or may not turn out the best in the end, but you will have moved through the situation better. With more grace.

I thought about my kids and the role I wanted to portray... a crying, panicked, crazy woman, or a calm, intelligent woman who believed it would be alright. When they asked me, I admitted I was scared, but I knew Daddy would come to the rescue, batteries and all.

So how often do you back up?


Jason said...

To be honest, I only saved on my computer for a while. However, my computer that held all of my stories crashed last year -- a virus that my best friend mistakenly let loose -- and I lost a lot of stuff I was working on, some of it from my childhood. So I back up a LOT now. There's no way I'll let that happen again.

I know how you feel with the panicking thing. Everytime my computer glitches now, my mind screams PANIC! But I try to keep calm and rational and think things through.

PJ Hoover said...

Every night :) I'm the over-prepared type.
I email to my yahoo account my current manuscript I'm working on and I also do offsite backup which kicks in at 11:00 each night.

Whenever I'm faced with a scary situation, it totally does help to ask yourself that question - how do I want my kids to view me, because really this is the same as asking - what kind of person do I want to be?

Take care!

Jeanne said...

I'm really glad that your computer problem was such a minor one and so easily fixed by your very own computer tech/hero/husband. What great news! FYI, I have an external back-up drive that automatically backs-up everything I've done every day at 5 p.m.
So happy to hear you're so (relatively painlessly) back in business. I know what a scare these things are!

beth said...

What I do: I email my work to myself. I'm horrible HORRIBLE at backing up (i.e. even though the computer makes weird whirring noises, I STILL haven't backed up--including all my wedding pics from a year ago!!) So anyway, I just email myself my most important works in progress. Even if my comp died, I'd still have my latest WIP.

The Anti-Wife said...

I have on on-line back up service called Mozy Home. It's fabulous. Once a week it gives me a little reminder, I hit the backup button, and it copies everything new to their servers and deletes anything I deleted. It allows you to backup your files as often as you like and you dont' have to worry about your computer crashing or losing your external backup drives. It cost about $100 for a 2 year subscription and is worth every penny.

Jeanie W said...

I'm backing up right now. Thanks for the reminder.

Anonymous said...

Hate to say this but I dont! and my lap top is on its way out! I must learn how to do it as I have visions of it all exploding in a puff of smoke!! (if that happens ...omg!)

Sheri said...

You guys are organized!

It only takes loosing your work once to learn, right Jason? And it's a hard lesson learned too.

Every night, PJ and Jeanne!? I think you both take the Prize. This is what my DH has been talking about doing... setting up an external hard drive where my material is automatically saved every day at a certain time. I would like to talk to you two about how to set that up. Do you do it manually or is it an automatic.

And Jeanne, thanks for helping me yesterday and for your advice. That was when I was in the thick of it. I'll see you tonight!

Beth, I'm not sure I understand this emailing thing. I've heard of it once before, but if your computer crashes, you won't be able to access your g-mail either. What am I missing? …That if you buy a new computer, you can then access the g-mail account and all your files will be there? That’s cool, but what if you need your info now and can’t wait until you buy a new computer?

Anti-wife, I want to hear more about this. This sounds interesting. Do you feel your files are safe though and can't be tampered with at this online site?

Good girl, Jeane! Back up! And get in the habit of backing up too.

Personally, I prefer my zip drive. I like the idea of an external drive that automatically saves more though because I imagine, eventually, these zip drives will be obsolete and I'll have no way of accessing my data on them. Plus, last night I filled two zips! And they're a little hard to label. Ok, maybe they're not my favorite. But they're so cheap and easy! I love that about them!

Sheri said...

Motherx - don't wait. The easiest and most inexpensive thing to do is buy a zip drive. Then you simply drag over your new material onto this little zip. It's easy. If I can do it, you can to. So run, don't walk to the nearest Staples to pick one up today!

Jeanne said...

Sheri, and anyone else interested, an external zip drive is connected to your computer via a USB port, and it appears on your desktop - for me, as a little yellow drive with a USB symbol on the top. You can open it and look at the contents anytime. It's all there, and you never have to think about it. Yes, I have it set to back up everyday at 5pm! As I totally rely on the computer for my livelihood, it is essential that I not lose files. I will admit - my Mac guy set it up for me, but I don't imagine it's all that difficult.

Rebecca said...

Funny how such emergencies are often taken care of through such simple means! Thank God for DHs.

How often do I back up? Probably not often enough. Hmmm...maybe I should go back up my WIP again.

Sheri said...

As Jeanne said, yes, even us PC users (I hide my face in shame...) a zip is that easy. You just plug it in, open the icon, and drag your files over. Viola! You're saved... well at least your files are.

Rebecca, go! Save now! Hurry!

keri mikulski :) said...

I'm going to back up know after this story. :) Normally, I back up when I think about my computer dying.

I like how you thought about your kids and then reacted. Good plan. And happy to hear your computer is going to be okay. Whew.

Jeanne said...

Sheri, no, I don't mean a zip drive - I mean a real external hard drive that has almost the same capacity as my computer! It backs up literally everything we've done that day, plus if you've even updated applications! Not just what we wrote last night. They run around $100 or so and seem well worth it. Nothing manual to do at all - no dropping, dragging, nothing - except hook it up right when you first get it! :o)

Gottawrite Girl said...

Oh, calmness. Definitely something to strive for.

Angela said...

I back up all the time... I have to look at dates to know which version of a file to open.

I also e-mail files to myself and use memory sticks.

Sounds like u went through tons of stress. Hope the 'big event' goes well!

Amy Tate said...

I back it up in 2 places. I use a flash drive, and I print it. I like tangible things - things I can physically hold in my hand. After every chapter that I complete, I print it and keep it in a 3 ring binder. When I revise it, I print it again. I go through a lot of paper, but paper sure is cheaper than lost manuscripts!

Sheri said...

Keri, I tend to be more like you but want to be more like Jeanne and PJ. Now that my husband will be buying an external hard drive, I will be more like them!

Jeanne, I've never heard of an external hard drive referred to as an external zip drive. I assumed, then you must have been talking about a zip, which theoretically is an external hard drive, but portable. But I think those are two separate things...

Susan – you feeling stressed lately? Aren’t we all? The stock market (not that I have any investments) banks closing, the cost of things, just life in general, seems to be way too full of worry these days…

Angela, yes I am so looking forward to this weekend and am so happy to put the stress of computer woes behind me!

Amy, I used to do what you do, but I don’t like the clutter and all the paper waste. I still print out pages because I see my spelling and grammatical errors better for some reason on a printed page. But then I recycle and print on the back side and then I shred. I do still have printed versions of my MS, of course, but I like the clutter-less files of computers…

“Personal limitation exists only in our ideas of who we are. Give up all notions of who you are and your limitations will vanish.”

- Anonymous