Most of us are disoriented by change. Odd, since change is the only constant in the universe, but that’s just how we humans are. We like our environment and all the things in it to be familiar and predictable. Artists in general and writers in particular tend to be especially bad about needing an unchanging corner. Everything is set up just so, with just the right ambiance for our creative muses. But the modern world bombards us daily with change, and nowhere is that more prevalent than with electronics and, more specifically, computers.
Yours truly has recently experienced the light years of change between old and new. The seven-year-old laptop has become the new desktop computer. Despite being careful about staying on top of the free updates when available, there came a point when the laptop just couldn’t be updated anymore due to “antiquated” hardware. The technology gap widened as time went by and other things were determined to be more important to spend the limited funds on. Now the major change in new hardware is also bringing major changes in the tried-and-true software faithfully used for so long. While exciting, it is also daunting. The muses are not happy.
So here are some tips, from a veteran of the change wars, to help you avoid your own unhappy muses:
- Start saving now: It’s inevitable – you will have to buy new hardware, new software, new something. Have a slush fund that’s just for maintaining your writing environment, whether you are a pen and paper kind of person or you worship at the altar of technology. Be disciplined about it and avoid the temptation to dip into it for other things.
- Keep software updated: Most software companies offer periodic updates on their products, often to address minor glitches or security issues. Updates tend to be free so it’s not usually an expense issue, but more of a scheduling issue. We writers just need to pay attention and check our software regularly for the latest release.
- Upgrade software: This is different than updating. An upgrade is when the software gets a new version, often with new features. It usually costs to get an upgrade, though existing users tend to get a break and are able to get the new version for less than buying the software brand new. Upgrading is a mixed bag (a perfect exemplar being the various Windows OS versions), but in the long term it’s another inevitability. It allows you to change in small steps, instead of being overwhelmed when your ten-year-old software doesn’t work anymore and you end up having to enter everything manually into the new program.
- Upgrade hardware: This can be just as important as software. Especially when it comes to backing up your files. (You are backing up your files, aren’t you? And not just in another place on your computer, either.) Whether it be a new monitor, replacing a slower drive for a faster one, or going straight for a whole new machine, keeping your hardware current with technology will help you avoid some disastrous consequences. Like losing everything you’ve written that isn’t already printed or on an external storage system.
- Take small steps: Plan your changes well in advance and break them down into bite-sized pieces. Do one thing at a time and adjust to it before moving onto another one. Not only does this have the advantage of spacing out any potential expenses, but it’s much easier on you psychology as well.
Keeping up with the Joneses has long been the running joke in our modern world. Constantly inundated by ads for the latest gadgets, the hottest toys and the fastest cars, it can be tough to see through the hyperbole for that one thing good for you. The urge is to just keep your head down and plug along the way you’ve always gone. But taking the time to make little changes now can save you from a big change, and angry muses, later.