My Tools for Writing: Reprise

A while ago I wrote about my favorite programs/implements for writing efficiently, but I neglected to mention my most important tool: my laptop.

It didn’t seem worth mentioning because it’s an obvious tool. Most writers have some sort of computer or tablet  for writing. My own laptop faded into mundanity because I used it for everything; it wasn’t special anymore.

Until one day, thinking my computer was moving slow (I had taken to calling it “the dinosaur”), I watched the clock in the top right hand corner of my screen while waiting for Microsoft Word to open. Four minutes passed.

"Dinosaur Jr." by Stéfan via Flickr
“Dinosaur Jr.” by Stéfan via Flickr

I realized then that without much awareness, I had been building mini-accomplishments into my day to make those four minutes pass. Open a document/make a cup of tea. Send a file to print/take the laundry out of the dryer. Download an update/take the dog for a walk. I felt productive because I was multitasking but really, I was wasting a lot (3 minutes and 52 seconds) of time. I needed a new laptop.

I opened the preferences to see just how old my computer was–almost six years. I felt like I deserved a medal. My previous laptops suffered fatal malfunctions at the three-year-mark, to the day. The dinosaur had out lived both.

Before it became a dinosaur, I used the laptop for my job, then to look for a new one. I used it to find two apartments and the house my husband and I bought. I used it to plan my wedding. I travelled with it. I could give my laptop an account on Facebook and only update the status with places it has “checked in” and it would be cooler than me.

I wrote my first novel on the laptop, a chapbook of poems, and half a dozen stories. I wore grooves into the keys and the space bar. One of the keys came loose and was prone to ejecting itself when struck with a passionate finger. My laptop became my second set of hands.

What was less obvious to me about this tool when I wrote that blog post was how much I loved it. There’s no object I own that has gotten as much use and lasted as long.

So, I got a new laptop for Christmas. It was time. I needed something faster and lighter, something able to survive past the Paleozoic Era. As I stood at the customer service table and watched the tech specialists take my dinosaur away to transfer the data into the new laptop, like sewing the last shreds of a baby blanket into a new quilt, I became overwhelmed with nostalgia for my old laptop’s idiosyncrasies, and wary of my new laptop’s, dare I say, lack of character.

Now I sit here writing on the new laptop, appreciating that the words appear on the screen as fast as my fingers type them, and I have to pee because I haven’t had a need to leave this chair. I wonder what life events this new laptop will see me through, which stories I’l write and how many more novels, which places we’ll travel to.

With time this “square” will earn its own nickname and I’ll develop a level of gratitude for it more personal than what I feel for its functionality. And if I write enough, maybe, just maybe, those grooves will reappear on the space bar and  keys.




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