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Get a bigger hammer

In to the Wind

January 16, 2013
By Mike Gilchrist , Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

"The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources." Albert Einstein

Those words explain a lot about the human condition, creativity, and in fact, resourcefulness. Libraries were once the domain of the researcher. Now, it is the Internet. The Internet makes it much easier to be a researcher, and a writer. As long as you are able to weed out fud from fact and are able to phrase search terms properly, you can appear brilliant, or brilliantly stupid. I strive to stay somewhere between the two.

Do you know who coined the term, "There is no such thing as an original thought?" The answer, according to Wiki Answers is, "Many people; it is not an original thought."

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So is your weekly columnist a practiced wordsmith, or merely a fumbling fool?

Artists are born with a talent. They see visions that are then transferred to their particular medium. Writers are made. And just what makes a writer?

In my case, it's the same path that prepared me to be a father; that is parental example. Coming from a family of writers, the path was well paved. Mom never defined words for us when we were growing up. She insisted we look up the word in the dictionary and then use the word in a sentence. Those exercises were paving stones on my particular path to becoming a writer, or a fumbling fool; you are the judge.

The etymology of the language has always fascinated me. Finding the roots of words sometimes brings me joy, or often, consternation.

Years ago, when I was writing, my desk contained a rather large collection of scraps of paper with tidbits of information scribbled on them. A stolen thought here, a divine revelation there. Contemporary writers, including yours truly, now cram such tidbits onto their computer. Relegated to bits and bytes on our hard drives, these pieces and parts become part and parcel of who we are, as a writer.

A recent even turned my system on its ear and thrust a certain part of my psyche into chaos.

When you write something on a computer, and save it in a file, the file creation date becomes a very relevant piece of data, nay history. On the computer, you can sort those files and little tidbits, including some of your gems, by date. It becomes a chronological record of your achievements and thoughts. In very real fashion, this collection brought me comfort, not unlike those little stacks of papers from the past.

Besides being a writer, or a hack, some people would classify yours truly as technologically savvy. That is, besides the fact that one of my torments to those struggling with a computer is, "get a bigger hammer."

Well it isn't a matter of IF, but WHEN your hard drive containing all of those little jewels is going to crash. Mine did, and even Thor's hammer isn't going to fix that one. The moment you realize your operating system is not booting, and there appears to be something seriously wrong with your computer, a certain panic sets in. Once I quit banging my head against the wall, I formulated a disaster response.

Now for those who know a little bit about PCs and PC directory structures, you know most of your important stuff is cubby holed under MY DOCUMENTS. Under MY DOCUMENTS, you will find music, pictures, word processing documents, and any other file you consider important.

Being a person who sometimes stubbornly holds on to old ways and is resistant to change, for years I refused to submit to the great god Microsoft and use their mail client. I stubbornly used Eudora, a mail client owned, maintained, and updated by Qualicomm. I really never gave it much thought that Eudora didn't store email and all of those sent and received missives as well as my address book under MY DOCUMENTS. Instead, Eudora saved all of those thousands of emails, and all of those hundreds of addresses under MY PROGRAMS.

Bear with me now, I am getting to the point.

Yes, I did have a backup routine going on that particular computer. Yes, everything in MY DOCUMENTS was backed up. No, NOTHING in MY PROGRAMS was backed up. I have lost all of my email for years and years. All of my addresses and contacts assembled over years and years are gone to the bit bucket which is crashed hardware. Shame on me. Shame on Eudora for not storing all that stuff in the right place.

The redeeming grace is that all of my writings, columns, and tidbits are all still there and have been recovered to this standby computer. But wait, what's this? Every single file that was restored has a new file creation date! Every file I saved on that failed drive now has the same date as all the others; the day I restored them.

To me, it's like all of my files were taken out of their folders and tossed into a huge garbage can. Yes, all the information is there, but is no longer sortable in a way that brings me comfort, and no hammer, big or small is going to fix it.

If you see me wandering around aimlessly, you know what's going on. What was once an orderly mess is now merely a mess. Yes, I have all of those little gems, including hundreds of these columns, but they are all swimming around in this big fishbowl without rhyme or reason. And that's the way it is!

Until next time-

You can read past columns by visiting and clicking on the "Local Columns" button.

In to the Wind and this column are copyright 2005 - 2013 Mike Gilchrist. Readers, feel free to contact me at via email, or write to me at P.O. Box 255, Toledo, IA 52342.



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