Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Tools of the Trade: Laptops I Have Loved

If you keep up with this blog, you are not surprised when I say the technology I most use when writing away from my desk (and much of the time at it) looks like this:

I can almost always be counted on to have a fountain pen and good notebook nearby, and they do a perfect job of capturing my thoughts in a way I find peaceful and pleasurable. That said, when it comes to finished work, it is time to pull out a computer like everyone else. (A computer with Scrivener, which is a must and a post for a later day.)

In the beginning, there was this:

Good thing I touch type.
Late 2004 14'' Apple iBook G4. This computer has been through the mill with me. With some help from my mom and between my two jobs, I managed to scrape together enough pennies to buy this, my first Mac, and my first laptop of any kind. When it was brand new, we sat at the back of my favorite coffee shop with a dear friend as he taught me tips and tricks on how to use a Mac. After he died a couple of years later, the computer would sometimes jog that memory of me sitting beside him and his own weathered laptop that sported an "I'd rather be reading Bukowski" bumper sticker, sipping lattes and sharing cookies while he showed me how to survive computing with only one mouse button.

Together, this laptop and I wrote my first novel, and my second. We got through my Master's program. We procrastinated all those things with reading endless message boards, lots of games of solitaire, and so much email.

It was also with this computer that I sat curled in my Felix the Cat pajamas (a gift from my roommate), and instant messaged this adorable guy who lived in my apartment complex at the time. This is the computer he used to IM me back.

2002 Titanium PowerBook G4

Once I messaged him and asked him out to grab a doughnut I didn't even want. Once he messaged me and asked me to go with friends to his parents' lake house, and somehow no one else but us showed up. Once we messaged that we were obviously dating, so why couldn't we just say we were dating? Because we were. Dating. Because he liked me. And I really liked him. So we were, officially.

Husband and I still have them both tucked away in the closet, too sentimental to let them go. The letters on my iBook's keys are worn off from use, the battery doesn't function at all, it weighs a ton by today's standards, and after I lost a big block of writing to a spontaneous shut down, it was time to retire permanently. Every so often I get a hankering to pull it out and see if it still works. It does, loyal as ever. Geriatric, but loyal.

I replaced the iBook G4 with a desktop computer, but quickly determined that I needed a portable writing solution to go with my main system. For a while, I used an HP netbook Husband managed to Hackintosh into a fine little writing machine. It did well, and I actually did a good deal of writing with it, but it was underpowered and eventually became a bit frustrating.

Down the road, I happened to purchase this used from a friend:

Early 2008 13.3'' MacBook. My friend had used this computer pretty hardcore in her music program during college, and it had seen better days. It did everything I needed though, and without fuss or fanfare. I spent a good deal of time writing on it, in libraries, coffee shops, and my backyard. When I was working for a small nonprofit that stayed afloat entirely based on grant funds, I worked with colleagues to write some pretty darn good grant proposals on there. I typed up the handwritten pieces from members of a local writer's group for people with a personal experience of homelessness for their newsletter. More than anything I remember about this computer is the editing. This computer and I spent hour upon hour editing so many things: my work, friends' work, grants, and even helping some local college kids editing their papers. We were going along fine until the fan decided to take itself out and I lost a block of writing. As we covered earlier, losing a chunk of writing is the death knell for any computer of mine. Do it, and you're getting replaced. Stat.

This is my current machine:

Early 2015 13.3'' MacBook Pro with Retina Display. Yeah...after going through a few other attempts at used and inexpensive computers, I lost more writing, which is NOT ALLOWED. Even though I still have a desktop as my "main" computer, I decided to pull the trigger and go for a laptop that will give me many good years of service, and maybe serve up a little slab of fun on the side. Thus far, I'm completely enamored with it. Here's hoping it is a long, long time before it hiccups and I lose some writing. I would be forced to pull out the old iBook G4 again and banish the MacBook Pro to the closet.

After all, I did write this entire post from my old buddy the eleven-year-old G4 without the slightest problem.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Inspiration Monday: Clean Sheets

In years of housing individuals experiencing chronic homelessness, there were always two moments in particular that almost universally brought about an emotional reaction from even the toughest client.

The first: handing over the key. Even more than unlocking the door for the first time (always a seriously cool moment itself), handing someone the key meant handing them a new way of life, and the freedom to exercise it. My home. Mine. No matter what brought me here today, now I control the lock on the door, and I may come and go as I please, with dignity. I've heard those words in so many ways from so many people: in sentences, in smiles, in tears.

The second is after walking in the front door, after seeing the living room and the kitchen, the bathroom. Those are all met with due respect, as they are the rooms in which a person will bustle, entertain guests, sing with the radio/dance with the mop, store their things, and generally go about their business--the rooms where they will live. Then, usually last, they see their bedroom.

That is the moment, when they see their very own bed, with very own pillows and blankets all ready to welcome them.

There are few things that symbolize tranquility and safety more than the sight of a clean, comfortable bed. After an experience of homelessness, the impact increases exponentially. May I lay my burdens down, close my eyes, and leave all else outside behind me. So often more poignant than the rooms where a person will roam in and out in wakefulness, is the place they may finally rest.

Even for myself, there is not much better in the world for improving my sleep than the feel and smell of a fresh set of sheets. It is comforting and refreshing, and though it sounds silly, keeps me in the moment and more mindful of relaxing rather than worrying so much about tomorrow. Clean sheets, clean slate.

Each new day is an opportunity to bury the pains of yesterday and start anew. This is true in life, in writing, and muscle soreness from the gym. Of course, that's easy to say, but it is not always easy to do (especially regarding the gym). It takes mindfulness, discipline, and that which allows us to tackle our mountains and which eludes us without peace, safety, comfort (and occasionally fresh, crisp, sweet-smelling sheets): rest.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Writing Saturday (with Distractions)

Today is a beautiful day. It is the first day a long, hot summer has lifted up the corner of its tarp to give us a peek of a gorgeous fall to come, with a perfect blue sky and a hint of breeze to tickle your cheeks.

Naturally, I decided to plant myself indoors to get some writing done.

I actually thought it would go well. I have some motivation to make some progress on some projects, as I'm going on a writing retreat later in the month with a group of very talented, very productive writers. I want to at least put myself in a position to get the most out of the uninterrupted writing time by putting my projects on a solid trajectory. I picked up my pen and notebook, and told myself there would be time to enjoy the beauty of this Saturday after I had gotten some work done. I meant it. I did.

Right away, my stubborn brain did the thing stubborn brains do when they're being forced to sit and write on a schedule. At least, it is what my brain does, and I like to think I'm not alone! One thing after another popped up suggesting any other activity except sitting still and getting words on the page.

I decided I would combat the insta-ADD by writing down the list of errant, distracting thoughts as they came, then get the bit in my teeth so I could go back to my writing.

This is the gist of things:

Okay, so I did just wake up, and I haven't gotten very far in my writing project. But! There is enough of this lovely day to go around. There's still time to get more work done.

And blueberries. There's still time for blueberries, too.