by Linda Rodriguez
When I was miserably sick just recently, I started re-reading Virginia Woolf's letters for comfort and delight. (No, I'm not afraid of Virginia Woolf, nor should you be. The title of that play by Albee was a terrible canard. She's one of the most readable writers ever and a fabulous role model for women writers, but that's another blog post.) Virginia (we've long since become BFFs, even though she died before I was born) is a gossipy, humorous correspondent and makes great fun of herself (along with others, usually famous), so there's a lot in her letters about her sloppy writing and the blotches caused by the nib of whatever dip or fountain pen she was using that day or about how lazy and awful she was for typing a personal letter. She also gets a lot of laughs out of describing her mishaps while printing (in the day when each letter had to be set individually by hand and a sudden bump could knock the whole tray of type to the floor entailing picking up and sorting all those tiny t's and i's). I've been having so much fun with her letters that I've continued dipping into them just before bed after long, long work days. (I completely read and ranked over 40 poetry book manuscripts in five days to finish up several postal bins I've been working on for a contest and meet a deadline.)
As luck would have it, my laptop started showing some possibly ominous symptoms of decline. Now, long-time readers of this blog will remember the hell I went through some years ago when my dog broke my laptop's hard drive, and I discovered my husband had “borrowed” my jump drive and lost it, as well as the external hard drive we'd used to back up the computer. (To be fair, he did eventually find the big external hard drive months after the emergency was over.) Then the brand-new laptop bought to replace it crapped out on me within two months, so I had to wait for the company to try repairs and then give up and send me a new laptop. Consequently, I was not inclined to wait around until my laptop gave up the ghost (even though I had everything backed up twice to external drives and to the cybernetic cloud, as well), and since a good laptop deal had just shown up in my inbox from the company that made my other laptops—reader, I bought it.
What this has meant, however, is that I've had to set up a new computer and transfer everything I want from the old one, all while feverishly working to meet multiple deadlines (the poetry contest was only one). Almost always, one of my two sons has done this for me in the past. The oldest has his own very successful computer consulting business with major university clients around the country. (Why didn't I go into engineering and computers when I was young? Oh, yeah, the first PCs didn't show up until that oldest son was already in school.) The youngest one is an academic, but a tech-meister, even if his Ph.D. is in medieval English lit. The oldest was out of town, working at Stanford, and the youngest has just been made dean at his university and is embroiled in the budget for the humanities division and can't really spare the time since he's facing a tight deadline, as well.
So here I am, trying to uninstall all the memory-hog programs I don't want that came with Windows 10 (I am emphatically not a game person so why won't you let me take Xbox off my laptop?), so I can install the things that I want, like Scrivener, Evernote, Dropbox, my daily planner. Here I am trying to find and download the right driver for my laser printer, which is a few years old but reliable. (What do you mean, you don't make that model's driver available any longer?) Here I am, trying to create the recovery media you told me to make, Microsoft—without telling me I would need a 16G flash drive that was empty and couldn't be used for anything else, even if it had extra capacity, until I got into the middle of the process that I had to go to a website to find. (I mean, honestly, the geeks who designed all this might have tons of empty 16G flash drives lying around, but I've only got two little 2G ones for taking files to be printed at Kinko's or something, one empty 8G and one almost-full 8G that I use for quick back-ups of things I'm working on, one 64G flash drive that's my permanent back-up flash, and one half-full 90G external hard drive for ultimate back-up, and I suspect the average non-paranoid-of-hard-drive-failure person doesn't have nearly that many!)
And I still haven't really begun transferring files, of which I have many, many, many. I'm a writer, remember? That's what I do—write.
I've suddenly become nostalgic for the splotchy dip pen and crotchety hand-set type of Virginia's day. I mean, Shakespeare never had a computer—or flash drive or printer driver or software package—and no one's really outdone him yet, have they? I think the secret must be the scroll and quill pen. That's what I want!
(And no, I wouldn't really give up my new little, featherweight, PURPLE laptop with the 10-hour battery for anything. I even wrote and posted this blog on it.)