My Writer’s Toolbox (The Hairy One)

 That’s right, the hairy one. That’s the one I rely on the most. Without it, the others fail me. The hairy one is my head. I do have to clean it out, polish it up, and label things occasionally.

Quite often in the sands in the hourglass counting the minutes of the days of my life, my writer label gets a little stained and peels off easy. My hairy little head sports other labels too. I’m a mother, grandmother, wife, farmwife, sibling, daughter, woman over fifty and therefore a resource as well as in charge of a lot of the community and family things that goes on or it wouldn’t happen, bookkeeper, friend, veterinarian, doctor, nurse, psychologist, therapist, wardrobe mistress, financial planner, treasurer, secretary, lobbyist, advocate, school bus driver, IRS as well as UPS as well as Social Security wrangler, historian, outstanding debt collector, truck driver, purchasing and procurement department head, general handywoman and maintenance worker, light mechanic, inventory controller, quality inspector, teacher, tutor, student, groundskeeper, pest control agent, designated driver, and curator.  You can see why occasionally, I come a little unstuck. If you were to examine your labels you’d find you might be a bit overbooked too.

To help my hairy little head with the control box in it, I am trying to keep the general atmosphere and climate it works in positive. The heavy cloud of guilt of things undone under those other labels can wipe out off the creativity board and nothing can go forward—at least not so much for me. Clearing out this miasmic fog of guilt took on a life of its own recently.

After the turn of the new year, I had numerous very important projects and tasks to accomplish. After they were finished, I turned my attention to the guilt fog. It consisted of promises made or tasks expected to get done that had not. To exacerbate the problem, I have a horrible life-scarring habit—yes, I’m embarrassed to say—note writing.

Ah, my know-it-all-seeing eye sees your puzzlement. When I write notes, I can be anywhere doing anything and any piece of paper can be used—ANY! I have a government diagram on how government works on a dinner napkin. It really is nice so I brought it home and scanned it into the bottomless, multi-copied, now-backed-up-to-the-cloud computer. (Aside note: It took ten continuous 24 hours days to back up my computer to the cloud the first time.) When I run out of paper, the note takes off around the margins. As a thing gets done on a large piece of paper, I rip it out. The long term consequences of these two practices are thus. One—I have some really long (read old) notes not taken care of. Two—I have enough of these little pieces of paper are like little critters. That they fall out of everywhere like an infestation of cockroaches.

To Stop the Crazy of these little critters, I decided to focus on them. Finding them where ever they hid and dealing with them. By concentrating my usable time on them, I have eradicated the oldest-8 years old to some of the newest--last week. With any hope at all, I will banish the infestation by using my other writerly tools on them—a calendar planner, a monthly set of files, a two scanners, two printers, one all in one FAX, Printer, Scanner, Copier with a document feeder. Actually, three of the herd have feeders.

The first thing was to get my Dell Optiplex 7010 to working well. It was having mini-strokes and black-outs.  I called Dell service and had the guy fix it. The Dell Optiplex 7010 is a super fast, very capable machine because I have software programs that require me to have three or four of them open at a time to manipulate data between them or get interrupted and have to find stuff in one while the others are waiting on me to get back. I live very rurally in SW Kansas several hundred miles from a computer store. Because I needed something reliable, I went to the Dell section that deals with business, explained my needs, and got them met. The other need was for service—immediate service. Dell sold me a service that is sooooo awesome I wouldn’t be without it if all I had was a computer to read e-mail! This service guarantees that I’ll be up and running—with a tech to come to my door if necessary within twenty-four hours. And they keep that promise. My Dell and my Dell techs are lifelines and support for everything that I do under all of my labels.

Beware of past tools that you thought needed an upgrade. I started my first novel with a Tandy word-processor laptop that my mom found at a garage sale. At the turn of the century with Y-2K and issue, I purchased my first laptop and worked exclusively with that. It never left the desk in my office. Then its hard drive died when it was two weeks old—bad bearings and I learned about backing up. Then I bought a tower computer system. Wanting some mobility, during a stretch of bountifulness, I bought another laptop and had wonderful days writing in local cafes once a week. Ah, those were wonderful times. The café closed. College kid needed laptop. Then four years ago we had another spurt of prosperity and I went and bought a wonderful Dell laptop—and it is too heavy to lug anywhere. Beware of equipping one’s self with tools of a bygone utopia.

My writer label is the one that insisted there be almost instant backup and that data could not be lost. Last year I discovered my backups had made multiples of my work in progress—when it was discovered, I had several different copies of the work I was editing—all different. That took the starch out of my writing as I had to coax myself out of a fetal position before doing anything.

I took a hammer to the treacherous backup, the one the size of a pack of cigarettes or the size of the portion of steak we’re supposed to eat. Ok, I didn’t take a hammer to it, I gave to an eager idiot. Ok, that’s not fair either. It isn’t his fault I flicker between a two watt brain and a half watt one. Either way, a backup thingy was NOT for ME. After spending WEEKS straightening out the work-in-progress multiple copy problem and merging all of the edits, I went on-line for an auto-backup system. I used mybackupPC. It worked very well. But it turns out those mini-blackouts? They were caused by incompatibility between the backupPC and another program I used for the farm. Both had to go. Now I use Carbonite. It is awesome as I deleted something I needed to find. Retrieving it was as easy as using a thumb (travel) drive. Easy helps my hairy little head function at the working wattage.

The monthly file folders are for follow-ups to make sure things got done that were supposed to have. For example; my driver’s license is a CDL with all of the endorsements including hazardous materials –although why Homeland security would let me haul dynamite I’m not sure….anyway, my medical card had been signed by the doctor with the expire date as the same as the date he issued it—small error—big consequences. My license was downgraded until an un-expired med card was sent in. New one issued by doctor sent in. The follow up date came up where it was filed in March and I checked to see if my license was re-upgraded. It was. The folders also include a note and a copy of this year’s tax return for a seed cleaning business for next year. I’m going to give it a go myself. EVERYTHING goes through those folders if necessary—a note on where I’ve sent a manuscript, a copy of an invoice of something I’m evaluating, a ticket to an event.

There is a calendar notebook with a pouch in the front as well as a very large clip. This calendar notebook stays on the corner of my desk. As each month rolls around, I read the notes of what I’m supposed to accomplish this month. For example; buy the weed preventer for the acres around the house and have it ready to put out next month. In next month there is a note to spread it.  The clip is for on-going stuff—like the number to my dad’s hospital room where he currently resides. The clip also has the type of timer I use for watering. I could have put it in the folder for April and should have—Ooopsie.

Scanners and printers. When I work on the websites, I need the color scanner for pictures.  When doing ad work ups, I need the scanner that allows me to take an image of writing and then scan and put into Word to manipulate the words. I need a printer/copier that is economical for printing off copies of the novels because I keep those to edit while waiting in line or in the pickup while my farmer husband is admiring equipment somewhere. Lots of editing gets done then.

Paper, pencils, pens, folders, totes, and cell phones. I use a lot of paper pads and have them tucked into every vehicle and room in the house. I love dark soft pencil lead. I write boldly and like to see it. Same for pens. I also make enough changes with the pencil work that I have separate and wonderful erasers. The totes are for toting the current work-in-progress, the something else I’m editing, or for a book or magazine like RWA’s.  Cell phones aren’t just for calling. They’re for research on the go or pictures on the go.

A simple Kindle really helps with reading for fun, reading for craft, and reading my work to see if it has true readability. Love that thing. I’m currently reading three, a romance, Financial Peace, and a very in depth book on cutting out extra words by learning how to do screen plays.

I am a tool too. My health, my rest, my attitude are all parts of me that help or hinder my abilities to function. Best recent things? 1000Vitamin B-12. Oh my. It has cleared the sludge out of my brain. Love it! Sleep—I don’t feel guilty about naps and I try to get at least six hours a day—more if I can.  Attitude—it needed adjusted. I have to remember “Progress not Perfection”. Done ok is better than not done at all because I’m still working on it. That includes dishes, bed-making, writing, and a host of other items. I have a timer and no matter how overwhelmed I am, I give myself fifteen minutes out of every hour to relax and regroup and un-whelm. My attitude has gone from on-the-cross martyr to one of actual bounce and fun. Everyone lives better with themselves when they aren’t making grouches of the people they love by biting them.

A recap.
            Dell Computer Otiplex 7010
            Dell computer ProSupport on call
            Dell laptop as a chair ornament
            Carbonite cloud backup
                        Windows 7 professional
                        Microsoft Office Suite with Word
                        CCleaner, Recuva, Defragler, Speccy—all used to keep computer health well
                        McAfee subscription to keep me from the viral side of the internet world
                        Pintrest for fun and shopping
                        Chrome for a browser with Google for info. My google is trained to find an amazing amount of things I need faster than any other search engine—from car parts to instructions on how to build a kite large enough for a person to ride—writerly thing.
            Scansnap S1500—scanner with document feeder—amazing tool. We have one on everyone’s desk. It has OCR so we can scan and then change wording. Love it!
            HPhotosmartC8180 All-in-one—Color printer, scanner
            HP LaserJet P2030 printer for excellent quality black printing
            Brother 4-In-One for economic printing, faxing, scanning, copying
            Coffee Pot Carafe—hot coffee whenever I want it—exercise to go get coffee
            Robot vacuum—says it all
            Timer—because I have absolutely NO concept of time. Need those 15 minute breaks.
            Labeler—to label how to load each machine whether it is face down, feet first or face down, head first or whatever. The danged things all load paper differently.  I also label all of the cables and wires so re-placing stuff is easier. I have two phone lines, modem, wireless router, TV router, and other assorted techno-pets—all with labels on the suckers. Life is easier under the desk after that. Bread tags work well to for labels on wires. Also have a laminator—works great on name tags for conferences.
            All of these are to make life go quicker on things I don’t want to do so that I can get to my worlds and people in my hairy little head tool box and play with the writerly tools that are in it.