Technical Difficulties

February 26, 2012

I started having technical difficulties with my laptop Friday evening:  The cursor jumps randomly around the document ever five or six words or so, a nervous little hopping rabbit.

At first I thought I was imagining it.  Then I thought I was typing too fast.  Then I spent a while fiddling with the keyboard and touchpad settings.  Then I went online and Googled ‘jumping cursor’ and soon became disheartened by the discovery that this might be a Microsoft programming glitch ferried in on a Windows Update.

I sat slumped before the screen, my hands dangling between my knees.  I  stared at the long list of jumping cursor Google hits.  Then abruptly I closed out of Firefox and emailed my computer guru, who happened to be coming up to my neighborhood within the next few hours.  Considering that I live in the back of beyond and he lives south of there, that was very good luck.

Stan stopped by the house in the evening and took at look at things.  After several quiet minutes of the keys click clacking under his fingertips, he told me, “Well, if you don’t type anything but ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,’ you seem to be all right.”

I leaned around to peer at the screen.  Sure enough, there were six or eight lines of All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, one right under the other.

I told Stan, “That should work out fine then, because what I’ve been doing for the last three and a half weeks doesn’t amount to anything more than that anyway.”

Stan grinned.

I’ve been trying to keep my sense of humor about this, but in fact it’s been horrible.  I have never worked harder for longer with less success at a piece of writing.  I’ve never been more discouraged about a writing project, or more terrified by it.  I’ve never felt less like a writer and more like a block of cement.  I told my sister on the phone that it’s been the equivalent of a three and a half week bout of the throwing up flu:  really, truly ghastly.  I’ve written 80,000 words this month.  I’m interested in about three hundred of them.  Not really exaggerating here.

At midnight I lay in bed feeling my blood buzz busily through my veins when I had an Idea.  My eyes sprung open.  I pondered a minute.  Then I got up, got a legal pad and a pencil, and sketched out an outline, just one or two sentences describing the action in each of nineteen chapters.  Then I turned out the light and lay down again.  Didn’t sleep, though.  Got back out of bed at seven a.m. and started writing.

We’ll see.  I would not like to say one way or another if this is a breakthrough.  I’ve never experienced anything like it.  Maybe it’s a tenth false start.  And please, don’t anyone say anything about any of this, just in case.  No jinxes.

So that’s how the writing life is.

Category: At Home | Tags: , , 16 comments »

16 Responses to “Technical Difficulties”

  1. Valerie

    I hope everything is going better for you. South of the Superior was a wonderful book. You make the best Blueberry Pies, we bought a whole one a couple years a go. Your diner has the best BLTs. SEE everything you touch is great, so I know you will push through this writers block.

    Good Luck!!

  2. Mary Airgood Vecellio

    Considering many great authors have penned great novels without any modern conveniences, I know you’ll be just fine. Sometimes when things are down to the essentials are when we have our awakenings! Chin up dear cousin:)

  3. Karen Vigmostad

    My entire dissertation came out in sudden chunks like that with fruitless words in between that I mostly trashed. As recently as a few days ago I woke with the first few sentences of a book that have been writing–make that struggling with–that lacked focus. These sentences resolved that problem. So I suspect that you can trust the outline and chapter summaries that flowed out. Don’t you wonder where the words and ideas come from?

  4. ellenair

    Thank you, Valerie! You have just made me want a BLT with a slice of blueberry pie for lunch today. Thanks for liking all of it, book and BLT and pie, so well.

  5. ellenair

    Thanks, Cuz! : ) I am daring to hope that I’ve rounded that bad corner with this new project, but still feel superstitious about saying it.

  6. ellenair

    Karen, This is the perfect thing to hear right now. Thank you! And I do wonder where the ideas come from. It seems mysterious in some ways.

  7. Gary Darling

    It’s just a little of what I call “techno-dust”. We all choke on it now and then, but it doesn’t do any long-term harm. I thought they made it illegal to use pencil and paper. Anyway, a little fresh U.P. air should clear things up rather quickly.

  8. Paige

    I’m sure it’s better than you think it is. You’re just down the wormhole right now. Best of luck.

    We were in town for the 200 and surprised to see the diner closed. I hadn’t realized you shut down for the winter, but I see why you would.

  9. ellenair

    Thanks, Paige and Gary. And Paige, it has been a wonderful change of pace to close for a winter–this is the first time in eleven years we’ve done it, and it’s been really refreshing. I miss so much about the winter trade–we get a wonderful and devoted bunch of snowmobilers and local people and a few stray winter travelers–but I think we both feel renewed by the chance to do a few other things for a little while!

  10. Mike Justice

    Have you tried the rocking chair yet? :D

  11. ellenair

    Mike, No, I forgot! Sheesh. Will try. Things going better in the last few days, so no time to rock, but will try and remember during next ghastly time.

  12. Brenda

    Just came by because I have started reading South of Superior. Only two pages in and I am already in love with the story. My husband and I live about one hour north of Grand Rapids on ten acres in the woods. You live in our favorite vacation/getaway spot. We have been twice and stayed at the lodge and I believe from reading the back flap we have probably eaten at your diner a hand full of times. Of coarse our favorite spot is the walk over the dunes and a seat on the beach, book in hand and a cooler of meat, cheese and some crackers. I am going to finish my evening reading your book, borrowed from the library, and I hope to come back to the north country soon for some whitefish and the best pie evvver.

  13. ellenair

    Thank you, Brenda! Be sure to say hi if you stop in for pie!

  14. Pamela Grath

    Did you get your snail-mail letter yet, Ellen? We had “technical difficulties” for three days, completely snowed in with no power at all. I enjoyed reading by the light of a kerosene lamp and writing letters by candlelight. Even got the first draft of a book review knocked out. Nothing like your big projects, but it felt good. MORE POWER TO YOU! (Know what I mean?)

    Pamela, I do know what you mean! I did get your wonderful letter, thank you. I loved it. xxoo

  15. Brenda

    Back, just three days after starting your book. Car problems today and unable to make it to work so I read made hubs breakfast (he has a home office) read, made a cake for desert, read some more and finished your book. I will be suggesting your book to all of my friends. I enjoyed it so much. Fell in love with all of the characters. Had me wanting to live in an attic space of a very old hotel. And since we have visited your area before was able to get a clear picture of what you were describing. Your book made my day perfect.

  16. ellenair

    Brenda, Thank you, and I’m so glad you enjoyed the book so much!


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