As I am in the final days toward completion of an intellectually-taxing book due-at-the-publisher and will then move immediately on to completion of an emotionally-taxing book due-at-the-publisher, I have become particularly adept at Having (by which we mean synthesising) Problems.
I will chart their progression here in the hope that other writers of longform works can feel smug about being slightly less fucked-up.
In the initial months of writing, my Problems all seemed to be emotional. Of course, if one is the sort of writer—as I am—to whom emotional arousal is fuel to the engine, this is an ordinary maintenance risk. I have always written my best work weeping purple tears; you know, FAT ones between authentic and inauthentic grief like Ben Stiller in the final scene of There’s Something About Mary. The problem is, of course, sometimes the tears become real and you have to go to bed.
What then follows is a set of financial Problems. Of course, decent writers like myself are paid peanuts blah blah blah but the real problem in this case was not that I was being paid too little but that I was being paid nothing as I was in bed for several months on a crying jag; the advance money long since evaporated.
Then, I had intellectual Problems. I became keenly aware that I was far too ill-read to finish this book creditably and spent all of my time reading and listening to lectures. I had physical Problems; I became resentful that I wasn’t running 10K a day as had been my habit and then resentful when I did start running 10K a day again because, fuck it, I should have been home finishing Civilisation and Its Discontents. And naturally, I had and have social-media Problems which are compounded by the fact that the small amount of regular public writing I maintain is heavily influenced by the difficult book I am writing and so is usually dismissed as the work of a Frustrating Wanker.
I own up to the fact of my volition in all of these matters and I have conquered them all. I don’t even really mind being called a fascist hatemonger; which happened as recently as yesterday when this piece was published. As long as distant critics attack their idea of my person and not the ideas about which I write, I don’t actually feel meaningfully criticised.
So. I’m on top of EVERYTHING except a technological crisis. And for this, I blame not myself but The System.
Actually, the Operating System.
For sundry ethical reasons which I should probably revise, I gave up on Apple at the turn of the century. I didn’t like the ultra-proprietary direction the company was taking and fuck me if I was going to work on a bright orange machine.
I also hated the cutesy icons and the increased opacity of an OS that seemed to always be waggling its adorable cartoon-panda paw-finger at me every time I tried to customise. The utilitarian ugliness of Windows 98 served me well and reflected an idea of my own unfussy nature. Of course, I am not unfussy and I am delusional but the stark visuals of 98 really helped me, to use the instruction of a great editor then at The Age, to “stop using so many fucking adverbs and buy yourself Strunk and White”. (Gay Alcorn, who is a lovely lady and an extraordinary editor, refuses to remember that she said this to me in Acland St, St Kilda in 2003).
Of course, I am not the only git with a keyboard to have observed how the style and behaviour of an OS impacts and reflects its user. Jonathan Franzen wrote about it comparing Apple and Windows to two European countries (I can’t remember which) and the MIT professor Sherry Turkle more capably compared Microsoft’s products to the Modern era of calculability as described by Weber and Apple’s OS to a postmodern era ruled by invisible power. As described by Baudrillard et al.
I am certainly a product of a postmodern era but I just can’t give myself over to a critique of it in the company of rounded corners, opaque screens and Hello Kitty icons who do frowny faces at me when I have overstepped the bounds of the OS. So I was going fine on a really old XP machine until it choked and then okay on Ubuntu until the screen on that machine died and now I HAVE WINDOWS 8 OMFG.
I mean. What the fuck were they thinking? Let’s Combine the Cute Eerie Opacity of Apple with All The Worst Bugs of Windows? I should say that as a low-vision person, I fucking love the touch-screen that makes it so easy for me to read small text but fuck me indiscriminately with a discount jar of vegan savoury spread WHAT WERE THEY OTHERWISE THINKING?
Like most users, I want to work in an environment that is not hostile to my needs or my vision of myself; which is as a Sensible Lady. And these useless kawaii apps, which are not so much buggy as plague-of-locust-y, make me long to live in the antique lap of NT.
So anyhow. That is my latest problem.
I am not asking for solutions as perhaps the market’s Invisible Hand will see to them in time. When it has stopped goosing me.
In the meantime, say a silent word of prayer for me to help me finish this book. I can only imagine that faith will be produce better results than the current iteration of Windows.