Hard Drive Failure Cranks Camp NaNoWriMo Anxiety Higher

I’ve blogged several times about my Mac-iPad-Scrivener-Evernote writing system. All goes well as long as each component does its part. But lately, my poor mid-2010 Mac Mini has been running slower and slower. I tried several software fixes — clearing caches, rebuilding indexes, even reinstalling stuff that seemed particularly slow, but the problem kept getting worse. I was frantic, screaming at the poor machine when it took forever to check mail or sync Scrivener so I could work at least a little on my iPad. For nearly a week my Mac was virtually unusable until at last, on Monday, I gave up and took it in to the Apple store.

The verdict of the “Genius” was that the hard drive was rapidly failing. Since I was in for at least a $160 drive replacement bill, I went ahead and added another 4GB of memory for a total of 8GB, a new little external hard drive for backup (the one I’d been using was even more ancient than the Mini) and an 8GB thumb drive to use as an emergency startup disk. My Mac is sprightlier and safer than it’s ever been.

But much writing time was lost to futile attempts to fix the Mac myself, more to the backup before service (It took 5 hours!) and yet more to restoring my system yesterday. Camp NaNoWriMo is only six days away. If I weren’t a big girl, I’d break down and cry right here in Starbucks.

Maybe I will anyway.

Lesson learned: Suck it up and pay the bucks to the IT department, AKA the Apple store, before my system falls completely apart. After 15+ years out of Mac software development, I no longer have the expertise to diagnose and fix it myself. And I sure don’t have the time.

— Update —

By popular demand, here are some links to my posts about Macs, Scrivener, iPad and how they fit into my writing universe:

Looking back over my posts, I see that I haven’t blogged much about using Evernote in my writing workflow, just in my GTD implementation. So, a few words about Evernote:

Everything goes into Evernote (EN). If I scribble it on the back of an envelope, I take a picture and put it in EN. I clip webpages, type out plain text notes, make voice recordings — all stored in EN. The only things that aren’t in EN are the actual words of my novel (past or present), scene lists (which live inside the chapter synopses) and a couple of spreadsheets, one of which keeps track of my work hours and the other of which is a partial Martian ephemeris. Those are in Scrivener.

I store everything even remotely writing-related into an EN notebook, called, oddly enough, “Writing.” I use EN tags for the project name (i.e., MyCampNaNo,) Character, Setting, and ProjectNotes. Then while I’m writing on my project, I keep EN open in the background, filtered to the project name. I can quickly switch and search for anything. Even if I misfiled what I’m looking for, I can do an EN search for something that should bring up the document if it’s in EN. Of course, it is in EN if I took note at all.

The advantage for me is that I can take a note and put it into EN with anything — my phone, my iPad, a scrap of paper that I can scan with my iPad later — or even the fancy Moleskine journals which I use when I know I’m going to be doing world-building. I don’t need to have my Mac with me, a good thing because the Mini isn’t portable. (At first I put links to all my EN notes into Scrivener docs that lived in the Research folder there, but that was too much trouble to maintain.) I know it’s contrary to Scrivener doctrine, which has everything related to a project stored in that Scrivener Project, but Scrivener isn’t ubiquitous. EN is.

As a result, when I want to work on my iPad remotely, I don’t have to worry about how to sync my Scrivener notes. They’re all in EN, and they’re always there.

Beauty.

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5 thoughts on “Hard Drive Failure Cranks Camp NaNoWriMo Anxiety Higher

  1. Have a lot of sympathy for you. We’re obviously told that we should save and not splurge on new gadgets, not to mention the environmental impact of constantly buying them. Nevertheless all things break given time and you do have to put contingencies in place (even if it’s setting aside a little cash ready for the inevitable) when your machine gets older.

    Meanwhile, a quick tip. You mention that you have “blogged several times about my Mac-iPad-Scrivener-Evernote writing system”. If I were you I’d assume that my readers might not have seen this and taken the opportunity to link back to previous content, especially given the way you structured that sentence.

    (Hint: I am interested in reading about your Mac-iPad-Scrivener-Evernote writing system)

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  2. Oh that is TERRIFYING! I have nightmares about tech failure, particularly in the context of losing writing. I back up everything like crazy but still…. I have an aging computer which has made several high-impact visits to the floor, and more than once saved my desk from a spilled drink (gee, thanks…). I know it’ll just give out on me one of these days. And the immutable laws of the universe dictate that this must occur within a high-volume workflow time (say 23,000 words into NaNoWriMo, or 45 minutes before a deadline, etc.) My stomach turns just thinking about it.

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  3. Yes, you’re right. The best backup systems in the world . . . will not give me back my lost time. I lost no writing, not even the tiniest document, but the hours I spent waiting for my failing computer to respond, trying to fix it, getting it fixed, restoring from those backups . . . that time will never come back to me. Bummer.

    And of course, 45 minutes before a deadline is the likeliest time. It’s not just Murphy’s Law — a machine will fail when it is put under pressure. It won’t fail when you’re not in a hurry because you’re not using it much when you’re not in a hurry. It will fail when you’re desperate and have been using it for 36 hours straight because you’ve put it under stress, along with yourself.

    I’d suggest using a cloud service like Dropbox for all your working documents. If the worse came to the worst, you could borrow someone else’s computer or work in a library while your own computer was down. The only thing that kept me making progress at all was being able to work on my stuff from my iPad using Dropbox.

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