So it’s been ten days or so since my hard drive died and I’m finally truly back online. My apologies for the comments I let sit in the queue while I was gone — I wasn’t logged into the blog on my iPad and I knew I didn’t want to try to write any posts, so it was only this morning when I started to write that I realized a) that I didn’t know the password to my blog and b) that there were comments. Oops.

Most important lesson learned: Passwords. Argh. Double argh. I try to be good and make reasonably challenging passwords and differentiate them for different sites — you know, the basics of password safety. I kept an obscure document on my hard drive with codes that I would understand but that anyone else would have trouble figuring out to remind me what my passwords were. Not the kind of thing that someone else could find and make sense of, but hints for me. Like: A-Pbd-Rn#2, which would mean that my Amazon password was my friend’s birthday followed by my son’s name with a couple obvious numbers substituted for letters. Safe, right? Until I lost my hard drive. Password recovery has been tedious to say the least. If I hadn’t had my iPad, I could easily have gotten trapped in a nightmare where sites would send my passwords to email addresses that I couldn’t access because I didn’t have the password. Fortunately, that didn’t happen. Still, I definitely need to find a new password system. I may try one of the sites that manage them for you, but at the very least, I’m going to be putting my mysterious codes onto actual paper from now on!

Second lesson: Windows 8 is hell. Whose idea was it to make the trackpad consider a swipe to the left as a signal to change applications? How are you supposed to move the cursor if every swipe puts you into a different application? Finding where my applications hid after I installed them was tedious. Realizing that classic Spider solitaire was gone was … well, probably good for me, but I may have a few anxiety attacks over it in the future. Setting up my mail turned out to be impossible. I kept talking to the computer, telling it that my iPad managed just fine with the exact same information, and the computer kept telling me, nope, can’t help you. I finally gave up. From now on, I’ll be reading email on my iPad and if I need to write anything lengthy, I’ll turn back to the laptop and use the web. Color me not impressed.

However — third lesson — I am impressed with my iPad. I used Pages to write with an external keyboard. It took me a bit to get used to it. There are definitely usability changes, like the way it saves documents and the clunky filing system, which required some adaptation on my part. Needing to select with fingers was frustrating — I want a keyboard command that lets me start a selection and cursor arrow control so that I don’t have to keep taking my hands off the keyboard to make minor changes. And it doesn’t have commenting, so long-term, there’s no way I’m going to use it. I can’t imagine trying to do revisions without the ability to leave notes for myself that are easily findable and deletable. But overall, Pages is great. The simplicity, the clarity, the style — I’m not actually sure what it was that made it such a pleasant writing experience. It wasn’t perfect. The dog was not a fan at all, because she couldn’t cuddle up to my side without blocking my view of the iPad. But I found it much better than I expected to and actually enjoyed writing on it. When I opened up a Word document yesterday, I was tempted to go back to Pages.

Fourth lesson: writing. It turns out that losing my hard drive may have been a blessing in disguise. I’ve been writing Time for so long now — in a few weeks, it will have been a full year! — but a huge amount of that time has been revising the same scenes over and over and over again. There’s a scene in Maggie’s bistro that I had probably a solid dozen versions of. It’s a conversation with Nat and Grace and Akira and Sylvie and it covered a lot of ground in terms of both back-story and world-building. Every time I rewrote it, I tried to save the best parts from the previous versions, the parts that worked. The final version — now lost — was a patchwork quilt. I think it was a pretty good patchwork quilt. I was actually satisfied with the last version of it. But rewriting it, without having the previous versions to base my ideas on, is almost liberating. It’s flowing instead of chunking its way along.

I’m 18,000 words into the story now, about half of where I was, and it’s actually moving well. Instead of feeling like I’m grinding the words out, continually going back and checking what I’d written before, trying to make pieces fit together like a jigsaw puzzle, I know what the story is and I’m just writing it. And the characters are having fun. Grace took over a scene in a very Grace-like way, with dialog that amused me enough that I had that little glow of delight that is the best part of writing. First time I’ve felt that in months.

Anyway…I’m going to go back to writing Time now, because just remembering how I felt about it before I got distracted by the arrival of a replacement computer brightens my day. But I’m not mourning my hard drive anymore. I wish it hadn’t died, but it’s okay that it did. But thank you all for your sympathy!