Me: Time to print a 1,125 page draft.

HP Officejet Pro, 95 pages in: Align the printheads. DO IT DO IT NOW.

I started texting my partner to ask if he could “pick up some stuff,” but autocomplete assumed that the word stuff was supposed to be “snakes.”

What I find disturbing about this is that Google utilizes user data to make predictive text more accurate, and that there is apparently enough recorded user behavior to make “snakes” seem like a viable completion for that sentence.

An unexpected benefit of the Dvorak keyboard:

I have a hardwired Dvorak keyboard at work, and I guess sometimes when I’m not in, people will come in and ask if they can use the spare computer for a minute, only to go "Uh, what?" and give up.

So thanks, Dvorak, for saving me from greasy finger germs.

Dead electronics and the serious writer

I consider it one of my good qualities that I hang onto my electronics as long as possible. In part, this is because I want to do as little as possible to contribute to an industry that destroys the planet and uses questionable labor practices*. I buy refurbished most of the time. I repair things when I can. I tolerate screen issues that literally make other people gasp in horror and ask if my computer is going to be ok. (It’s not. Oh, it’s not, it’s not, but you are so sweet and innocent, we can pretend that a repair will be possible.)

A laptop with a screenful of aggressive static
My laptop has been in several low-budget horror films.

Anyway, this is normally a good thing. But sometimes it lands me in a situation in which my two vital electronic tools go on the fritz at the same time.

My phone shuts off randomly, many times per day, while still at 90% power, sometimes dying in an endless loop of battery deaths. It’s kind of like this:

I must have died one thousand times. The goth in me will never not love this song, and the copyeditor in me will always question if I want to leave that double negative in the final draft.

My laptop will act completely normal and then lines of static will burst across the screen and defibrillate my eyes. It’s kind of like this:

Yeah, I posted this song like a month ago. It’s still awesome.

Anyway.

Everything breaking at once sucks.

It’s also a strategy.

Or rather, it’s part of a strategy.

I’m keeping my overhead low.

Times are always tough economically for artists and freelancers, so define the sort of lifestyle you want to live, budget for your expenses, and draw the line between what you will and won’t do for money.

And remember: If you want maximum artistic freedom, keep your overhead low. A free creative life is not about living within your means, it’s about living below your means.

“Do what you love!” cry the motivational speakers. But I think anybody who tells people to do what they love no matter what should also have to teach a money management course.

“Do what you love” + low overhead = a good life.

“Do what you love” + “I deserve nice things” = a time bomb.

Austin Kleon, Keep Going

Keep Going came out recently, but this is a strategy I’ve been living for a few years now. It’s intertwined with the fact that I work part-time in large part to make sure I’ll be able to do my writing. These two parts of my Master Plan are so inextricably linked that I had to cut an entire post’s worth of material about what it’s been like to give up the only full-time job I’ve had in my life.

The Alone in a Room With Invisible People podcast aired two episodes on perfectionism, in which they also discussed the concept of making financial trade-offs to gain more time to do what you really want with your life. In this case, writing.

It’s not that I have any more time than you. It’s that I spent my time specifically doing these things. I have made sacrifices in my life to sit down–and I have less money, less security– we have less security, we have more worries because of our sacrifices. In order to help me do what I want, like we did for him. And people don’t understand. They just think, “Oh, you’re lucky.” No.

Rebecca Galardo, the Alone in a Room with Invisible People podcast, Episode 56: Perfectionism–First Draft

In the podcast, Rebecca goes on to talk about having less stuff, and less nice stuff, than other people, and not being able to go out to bars or shopping with friends all the time because of her commitment to writing. We live in a time and place in which it’s possible to live on fairly little money, and end up with way too much stuff (Hi, Dollar Store!), but that’s besides the point.

The point is about making choices. Trade-offs.

In one of my earliest posts, Paper, Flip Phones, and Anvils, I wrote about not making other people justify the things they own:

If someone prefers physical books to ebooks, don’t make them justify it.
If someone doesn’t have a smartphone, don’t make them justify it.
If someone doesn’t have internet access at home, don’t make them justify it.
If someone doesn’t have GPS and, to all appearances doesn’t need it, don’t make them justify it.

It doesn’t matter if they are poor, or old, or technologically illiterate, or made a choice that you don’t understand and don’t give a shit about. Don’t make them justify that they don’t own an item, just like you wouldn’t make them justify not owning designer jeans or not owning a home aquarium or not owning a BMW*.

Kris Bowser, Paper, Flip Phones, and Anvils SELF QUOTES ARE SO CLASSY

I wrote the above quote right around when I came up with my Master Plan. The idea of making trade-offs and not compromising on my dreams and goals was one and the same as my reasoning for not upgrading my phone, my car, and my laptop until I absolutely needed to.

I had a flip phone until December 2016, and I got a ton of shit for being a Luddite (even though I design websites!) because people didn’t understand the nature of the choice. I upgraded only when the smartphone choice became pragmatic as well as shiny, like a unicorn with a sensible rain coat.

We don’t have a microwave either. Same deal. That, too, was a choice.


One night at my old job, when I was training a fellow security guard, he brought in his new computer, an $1100 HP laptop. Awesome graphics card! Fast processor! Huge hard drive! Tons of RAM! Can make paninis and will sing you to sleep while gently stroking your eyelids with delicate little machine hands!

What did he do with this awe-inspiring machine?

He watched Youtube videos and typed Word documents, two things you can do on absolutely any computer.

In other words, he could’ve saved $900 if he’d taken a few minutes to think about what he’d actually use the laptop for. That’s all it comes down to: taking a little time to think.

Who are you? What do you do? Will the new shiny thing help who are you and what you do?

I’m Kris. I write. I go outdoors. I try to take care of my family, even though I’m only about three-quarters of a functional person.

Between the first draft and these final paragraphs, I upgraded my phone. It’s not as important to my writing process, but I don’t want to be left at the mercy of its treacherous battery if I’m out hiking and get some kind of injury.

I find myself examining my new phone’s case and screen protector over and over again to make sure they won’t betray me after I finally spent the money to upgrade.

And the laptop? The laptop is like the terminal cancer patient who is given one month to live, and lasts another ten years. Or, more literally, one year. I’ll replace it as soon as I can’t write on it because writing is what I do.

This is what it means to make trade-offs for for my work.

It’s not about asceticism; it’s about an honest accounting.


*To put it diplomatically, which I probably shouldn’t do.


Solar Pomodoro watch

A Casio Tough Solar Watch
A nice detail: timer mode shows the time of day in a little bar at the bottom of the face.

I always used to wish my digital watches had a Pomodoro timer function. I even considered writing to Timex at one point to request this, but I’m a lazy bag of social anxiety, so that didn’t happen.

My new Casio watch has an awesome, unadvertised Pomodoro function that lets you stack and repeat multiple timers. I bought this only because the metal band of my old watch gave me massive patches of red itchy bumps, and apparently I would rather exacerbate them than go without a watch for a few days. This one was $20 and solar-powered, and I was surprised to stumble on a feature I’d wanted in a watch for so long.

Ways to follow this blog

Last Monday, I posted The Ultimate Smoothie of Power.

Shortly after this, one of my readers informed me that I needed to post more.

“I’ll have you know that I added a new post yesterday,” I replied with a great deal of haughtiness, self-satisfied in the knowledge that this conversation was occurring the day after I had actually posted something.

“What? I didn’t know that.” He sounded surprised. I don’t know if that was because I’ve put out so few posts in 2015, or because he’s such a fervent and fanatical follower of this blog (for thrills like the alliterative spectacle you witnessed previously in this sentence) that he was shocked at having missed a post.

Or maybe, he has a room full of assorted elves and capuchin monkeys sitting in cubicles and refreshing blogs he likes.  And now, one of those capuchin monkeys is going to have to go out and get a crappy retail job because her clever little fingers were nicking a soda when last Monday’s post went up.

He did say he tends to forget RSS readers exist.

In any case, I informed him of the various options available for following this blog.

Here’s what I told him:

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And there’s another RSS icon on the sidebar, and another in the footer. Such excess!

1. Follow by RSS

Click any RSS icon to access the blog’s feed. Since I have Mozilla Firefox, when I do this I have the option to follow this blog from my browser with live bookmarks. Mozilla Thunderbird also has the capability to track RSS feeds.

You can copy and paste the feed’s address into the RSS reader of your choice. I’ve been using Feedly since the demise of Google Reader. You can paste the RSS feed directly into their search bar.

2.  Follow by e-mail

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No, it’s not just you. The follow-by-e-mail icon in the sidebar isn’t the easiest thing to find.

Click the e-mail icon on the sidebar to receive my posts directly in your e-mail. Although 2015 has been a light on posts so far, I’m aiming for three per week.

One of the trials of using WordPress for my site has been picking through the gazillions of available plugins to choose the best ones. I do my best to test all of them, so I can confirm that this will not make you sign up for a membership anywhere, and you can unsubscribe easily.

website3

Someone with her own newsletter should have a better caption.

3. The Kris Bowser Newsletter

This exists mainly for those interested in receiving news of my fiction as I release it. To be honest, this is in the very early stages, and I’m not totally sure what other content I’d like to include in the newsletter. However, I plan on including links to at least a small amount of blog content.

4. Social Media

Posting links to my blog on social media tends to make me feel kind of spammy and awkward, so I haven’t done a lot of this. Generally, I only do so if there’s a post I’m particularly proud of, if a post sums up my current state of mind better than a status update would, or if I wrote something that I truly think the people who have followed or friended me would enjoy.

If anyone requests it, I’ll post about blog updates on Twitter and Facebook. Otherwise, I’ll keep doing what I’ve been doing.