Yesterday, as I was heading to the coffee shop to do some writing, I passed a woman walking a golden lab.Â When they reached the street corner, the woman asked her dog to sit, and when he did, she gave him a pat. Â â€œGood boy, Zoloft!â€Â I couldnâ€™t help but smile.Â A dog named for an anti-depressantâ€¦ brilliant!Â After all, what better way to brighten your day than with a canine thereapy?
Last week left me feeling like I needed a little Zoloftâ€”preferably of the canine, not the chemical variety.Â (Unfortunately, my dog Barley is not nearly so nice a walker as Zoloft.Â Barley thinks it is imperative that he chaseâ€”or strain mightily against leash in an attempt to chaseâ€”every squirrel that he sees.)Â I was planning to write about sequels for last weekâ€™s blog.Â I wanted to discuss the importance of planning ahead, of thinking of what comes next even before you finish your first novel.Â However, before I got around to writing my blog, events intervened to change its course.Â Ironically, it all happened because I failed to plan aheadâ€¦
The Thursday before last was a beautiful day here in DC.Â The sky was clear, the weather warm, and the cherry blossoms were in full bloom.Â I woke up early and strolled over to my favorite coffee shop, Peregrine.Â I got a delicious lattÃ© and sat down, ready to put in a great dayâ€™s work.Â I pulled out my computer, plugged it in, and hit the start button.Â The computer turned on, began to hum, and thenâ€¦ nothing.Â The screen was black.
My chest tightened.Â A knot formed in my stomach.Â I took a deep breath and fought down rising panic.Â I turned my computer off, then on again.Â Still only a blank screen.Â In normal circumstance, this is the point when I would have started cursing.Â But I like Peregrine and wanted to come back, so I held my tongue.Â I took a sip of coffee and forced myself to breathe.Â I found myself wondering: when was the last time that I had backed up my files?Â Two weeks ago?Â Two months ago?Â I had written hundreds of pages of notes and two chapters of the history book Iâ€™m working on since then.Â I took a deep breath and tried turning on my computer one more time.Â No dice.Â This is when it would have been nice to have Zoloft (the dog) around.
I was facing a disaster of truly epic proportions.Â (Well, not really, but thatâ€™s how it felt at the time.)Â Iâ€™m not very sentimental about possessions.Â Every time I move, I throw out most of what I own.Â But my computer is different.Â I spend most of my day with it.Â My entire career is on it: notes on hundreds of books; outlines of dozens of stories; drafts of books.Â Last month, the fire alarm went off in my building.Â I took three things: my wallet, my passportâ€¦ and my laptop.
Iâ€”like most people, it seemsâ€”have become ridiculously dependent on my computer.Â I use it to find out how to get where Iâ€™m going, to keep in touch with my friends, to get my work done, to organize my pictures and music, to keep my schedule, to order everything from books to furniture to food.Â I donâ€™t have a television, so I even watch all my movies on my computer.Â All in all, I spend a rather disturbing amount of time with it.
So last week was nice in a way, because I was forced to take a break from my computer.Â It was very old-school.Â I looked up movie times in the newspaper.Â I consulted a map.Â I even wrote with pen and paper!Â And luckily, all was not lost.Â I was able to recover the files off my computer.Â I installed a new hard drive and voilÃ , my computer was a good as new.Â Actually, it worked a little better than new.Â A crisis was averted, and I was left with a new determination to break the chains that tied me to my computer (after I finish this blog, of course) and also to start backing up my files more regularly.Â Because if I canâ€™t have Zoloft, then I had better have backup.
Next week, Iâ€™ll get to Sequels (on planning ahead).Â Until then, I encourage you all to step away from your computer for a momentâ€¦ but only after you back up your files!