Princess: Time for a fresh start
The Aspen Princess
So I finally got a new computer and have retired my very sad, tired and sick-looking Macbook that was missing the “R” key and had most of the letters on the rest of the keypad completely worn off.
The screen looked like a car windshield after a long drive on an open highway, littered with dust and dead insects and stuck-on particles of God knows what that wouldn’t come off with a simple swipe of a wet rag. You’d have to scrape at it with your nail, which would do this weird, bleary streak thing to the screen, which didn’t seem good, so the gunk stayed.
But I have to admit that it was a little embarrassing going to business meetings with my jalopy of a computer, all haggard and dirty and the worse for wear.
“Jeez, that thing is scary,” a client said to me during a recent meeting. “Maybe I should just pay you with a new computer.”
In some ways, it felt like I was showing up in torn-up jeans with mascara running down my face. On the other hand, a part of me was proud of how much use those keys have seen, like a surgery scar or a well-loved car that had seen too many miles, been given a name and been the literal vehicle of so many adventures.
I thought about his offer but decided I’m a grown woman. That’s absolutely ridiculous to allow one of my clients to buy me a new computer. Don’t be silly. For sure my dad would buy me one.
But still, for a writer, a computer is a highly personal, emotional thing. It’s like your house, your office, your drawing board, your social life, your canvas and your life all wrapped up into one. Sometimes it’s also your audience, and just like being up on stage where the lights are blinding, you might not be able to see them but you know they’re there.
My computer also contains a record of everything that’s happened in my life over the past few years, all the documents and emails and photos, the projects and the assignments and the experiences. That computer lived through all those endless fertility treatments, the medication instructions from my nurses, the surgery and post-op, the endless appointments and trips to Denver. Then there was the year of my pregnancy, the weekly Baby Center updates and all the monitoring required for a mother who is of “advanced maternal age,” and no one ever lets you forget that, constantly reminding you that your baby might end up with three heads, just in case you weren’t worried enough already.
“Hey, I have an idea,” I wrote in one email to my doctor. “How about we flip that frown upside down and talk about the chances that everything is going to be just fine.”
And he wrote back: “99 percent.”
There’s the fact that I wrote an entire manuscript on that old computer, all 120,000 words, setting deadlines for myself and pulling all-nighters that were totally unnecessary but for the fact that I knew I would never, ever finish without taking some extreme measures.
So I sat on the floor at the coffee table in our living room, eating pretzel sticks and gummy bears and drinking Diet Pepsi, something I only allow myself to do when I am on a really tough deadline. (Hey, don’t judge me! At least I stopped smoking cigarettes.)
“So, do you have a way to transfer all your files?” my dad asked when he called for the full report.
“Yeah, but I don’t think I want to. I think I want a clean slate,” I said. “I love that there’s nothing on this hard drive yet.”
It’s true. It feels full of possibility, like the start of the new year.
“What about your manuscript? You have that backed up, right?” Dad asks.
He asks me this almost as often as “Did you get your oil changed?” and “Did you clean the filters on the espresso machine?”
“Yes, Dad,” I say with a sigh. “I have it backed up, and I can easily transfer it onto the new computer.”
But I’m actually thinking that this might be a chance for a fresh start, to write the book I’ve always wanted to write and tell all the stories I wanted to tell but was too afraid.
The book I wrote was based on parameters given to me by a literary agent who ultimately rejected it, saying, “I just wouldn’t know what to do with it.”
Granted, it took me 10 years to finish and her agency, while blowing up and becoming huge in that time, took a different direction. The material she took on was much more serious, more involved and mostly nonfiction.
Still, I always felt like I wrote the book the way she told me to write it. It had to be fiction, she said. It had to be all original material. She said my column was not “substantial enough” to base a novel on. It’s not like I disagreed with the feedback I got from the other agents I sent it to after she rejected it. I wasn’t in love with it, either.
A lot of writers talk about their “throwaway novel,” the book they wrote before they wrote their successful book. It’s almost like you have to get rid of all the gunk that’s sitting around in your psyche to make room for the real work.
So now, with this new computer, this clean slate and this fresh page, that’s exactly what I’m ready to do. Part of that is knowing I have no idea what form it will take but having the courage to let go of the past, that old computer and everything on it.
At the very least, I now have a keyboard with letters on it.
The Princess tends to get very philosophical in the fall. Email your love to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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