I almost had a heart attack earlier this week. I saw visions of my headstone: “RIP. He tried, but he couldn’t keep up.” Thankfully, one of my daughters works in healthcare, albeit the administrative end of things, and rescued me to live another day. At least for the time being.
I had tried to open a computer file that I hadn’t accessed for several days, having been busy with another project. But the file had somehow been corrupted, and Word couldn’t open it. I downloaded a program that would (supposedly) convert the file into a readable document, but I couldn’t get it to do anything. That’s when I felt the pains. They weren’t physical pains but rather emotional and mental pains. Pains of panic. Racing heart. Rapid but shallow breathing. Headache.
Why? That corrupted file contained the 340-some-page manuscript of the book for which I only recently signed a contract for publication. It represented years of research and writing and editing and rewriting and. . . . No! I thought. I’ve worked so hard on this, but I’m not finished yet! Just a while longer and it’ll be done!
Well, you get the picture. I felt like throwing up my hands and my lunch, and just giving up. But I couldn’t. I had signed a contract. I had to find some way to deliver.
So I did what I always do when I encounter problems with modern technology. I sent a frantic text message (yes, I do text!) to my computer-savvy daughter. But since she was at work, I knew I wouldn’t get a reply for some time, possibly not until later that evening. So I began mentally to prepare myself to do what old timers generally would do. I envisioned myself trying to reconstruct that manuscript from scratch and retyping it. Well, from near scratch. I did have an outdated printed version of the manuscript, but it did not include a lot of things that I had added after the printing. Besides, retyping it would increase the potential for introducing new errors, typos, etc. Thankfully, I would have time do that retyping and the requisite careful proofing because the delivery date for the package was still a couple of months off.
The daughter came through. She had me send her the file, and somehow that remains beyond my ability to understand, she recovered or converted the file to its near-original condition. It had lost the original formatting, which meant that I had to go through page by page to restore that, but it sure beat retyping it all. I’m getting deeper and deeper in debt to her, and I just know that one of these days she’s going to call in all those “you-owe-me’s,” and I’ll have to pay the piper. But I’m back up and running now. The chest pains have subsided and the breathing has returned to normal.
That near catastrophe is another reason I’m still “old school.” Not only my daughter but also the Verizon sales rep and many other people simply call me a dinosaur. After all, cell phones were in their third or fourth generation before I finally got my first one, a flip phone, and I exchanged that for a smart phone only a couple of years ago, and now that phone is ‘way out of date. But it’s comfortable. And I’m just now getting the hang of texting with it and can usually find what I want to find on it. That’s probably because I use only a few of its many features. I make calls. I receive calls. I send and receive texts. And that’s about it. No special apps. I have a hard time dealing with the few features I do use.
Being an old-school dinosaur, I still prefer hard copies of my work, for both writing and reading, over digital forms. My paper files never get corrupted (unless I’m careless with my coffee or peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches). I never lose them. (Well, perhaps misplace them sometimes, but I always find them where I left them.) It’s a lot harder to lose a stack of 8 1/2 x 11 paper as big as a ream of paper than a nebulous file name on some kind of electronic drive or in the foggy, ethereal clouds or dropped in some virtual box somewhere. The batteries never run out. I don’t have to have a cord, a charger, a converter, or any of the other gadgetry that the electronic toys require.
But I’ll admit that it’s getting harder and harder for old-timer writers like me. Whereas when I first started writing for publication, I pounded on a manual typewriter and sent everything (query letter, manuscript, photos, etc.) via snail mail, today I have only one magazine publisher who requires that the submissions be in hard-copy format. That publication is titled, appropriately, Good Old Days!
Now where did I put that flash drive?!