Secret Surprise

Yesterday we had visitors.

My colleagues Carolyn Gillette and Jim Jolley were in town doing some work, so they came by to see the house and we went out to dinner afterward. In the process of giving them the tour, I discovered that these iris are blooming in the Secret Garden. (Note that they’re not yellow – heavily amended soil there.) Part of what makes the Secret Garden so secret is that you can’t see much of it unless you actually go out there, which I just don’t do as often as I should.

Part of that is because I have to go through the garage to get to the Secret Garden. Yeah, it’s poor design. If I were to engage in any remodeling, that would be my first one – cut a door from the kitchen to the Secret Garden. As it is, you can see the garden from the kitchen window, which is lovely, but only gives you a long-distance, straight-line view.

It comes down to that I have to go out to the Secret Garden on purpose and I just don’t all that much. It’s the great impact of the computer age, I think, that they’re not all that compatible with going outside. Well, that and a cool Spring. When I’m not working my day job, I’m writing, which I also do on the computer.

Or answering emails. Or IMing with people. Or reading blogs and interesting articles. Or critiquing other manuscripts. Reading books is about the only thing I don’t do on the computer.

I begin to feel like I live on my laptop.

There are ways to get away from this, I know. I’m sure you’re thinking of suggesting that I write longhand. Or go back to corresponding via handwritten letters. I could even spend time with flesh and blood friends, should I find some.

(Actually I’m having coffee next week with a real, live other writer. A new friend found on the studio tour. Amazing!)

But it’s all academic – I’m not going to do those things. For now I’m wedded to my laptop for most activities.

Instead I’ll add a bit of reading in the Secret Garden to my To Do list.

Looks Like Disaster

You already know how much it annoys me when the computers don’t behave like they should. It’s shocking to me sometimes what a house of cards my life is, all precisely perched in a trembling tower…on my laptop. When the laptop misbehaves, the shuddering terror of lost files races all through my life.

All the photos. I love the ones from this Christmas in particular. What if the back-up didn’t get them all? It was acting funny too.

My finances. I’d have to reconstruct at least the last few weeks to figure out where we’re at. Oh God — I’d have to reconstruct all of 2008 for my taxes. When will I do that?

My novel. Does Liz have the most recent version? If the back-up won’t work (it still won’t run), when did I last throw the novel on the jump drive?

The emails. Ohhh…all the emails I’ve saved but haven’t quite dealt with yet. Our house sale, the move, correspondence with editors, agents, friends. The hundreds of little tasks predicated on information in those emails.

See, I ended up reinstalling Windows Vista, because I had corrupted files and it was getting worse and worse and … that’s what the online stuff said to do and that I wouldn’t lose my files. But I did lose my files. Nowhere to be seen last night. And I couldn’t restore without reinstalling my backup software, which took time.

Finally, exerting heroic self-control, I went to bed, to deal another day. And in the night it came to me. A folder called “Old Windows” was promised at some point. I looked this morning and there it is. There is everything. My world is restored, the light pours through the clouds, the birds spiral in wheeling delight.

Now I just have to figure out how to get the programs to run again…

Time it was, and what a time it was, it was

I’ve been tracking my time the last few days. Renee Knowles got me going on it when she gave her Career Bootcamp workshop at CRW the other day. Her point was that, if you’re not getting everything done that you want to — like drafting that bestseller — then one approach is to track your time and see where it’s going.

Now, my schedule is pretty tight: I get up much earlier than I like; I go work out; I hit this blog (new activity); write for another hour and a half or two. Then I shower up, practice harp, work my day job. At night I have meetings sometimes or I hang with David, which I believe in as relationship investment time. So I think I have my time pretty well accounted for. But I thought it would be interesting to check.

I made a spreadsheet (it’s the Virgo in me — can’t resist a spreadsheet) with my day listed in 15 minute increments, from 5:30 am to 11 pm. When my mom asked Sunday evening what I’d done that day, I sent her my 15 minute blow by blow list. Every mother should have such a responsive daughter. After she asked why on earth I’d done this, she remarked, “right off, I’d say less computer time.”

No shocker there. Though I defended it as an unusually heavy computer day because I’d been at the workshop the day before and had lots of catch-up to do. But even tracking my work day yesterday, which admittedly involves being on the computer all day, a huge chunk of my day is spent on emailing, instant messaging and looking stuff up on the internet. No, not surfing so much as deliberately going from link to link, reading the daily stuff on my list.

Okay, so there’s networking which, just like relationship investment, takes time. No way around that. And even Renee, like many others before her, exhorts reading blogs if you’re trying to market work as a writer.

The upshot is: what’s dropping out is my reading time. Even though I’m in the middle of a fascinating book (Stolen Innocence: My Story of Growing Up in a Polygamous Sect, Becoming a Teenage Bride, and Breaking Free of Warren Jeffs by Elissa Wall and Lisa Pulitzer) and had time scheduled to read it, that time decreased, wedged up against my looming bed time hour, and I spent more time on the computer. Working on stuff to market my work, so I can sell books to people who have less time to read them.