Writer’s block: technology woes

When I was looking for excuses for my own writer’s block (a novel experience), I was quick to blame technology problems, and it really can drive you away from the computer. I had had a run of niggly problems that lasted months.

I won’t bore you with details, but you’ll probably recognise the syndrome. For me a new manifestation crops up every few years. In general terms, it’s because my hardware and software and systems have become incompatible. Typically, I’ve hung on to an old computer too long, or I’ve failed to update some software, or a new operating system stops tolerating any software that isn’t the latest version, or the computer is overdue for a clean-up and rebore, or Microsoft and Apple are fighting each other on the battlefield of my desk. It usually all comes right once I stop blaming a particular component of my personal platform and look at the big picture.

If you’re writing a book, that sort of thing doesn’t help.

Even so I can still tear my hair out over Word. For years I’ve had Styles licked, and keeping control of a full-length book totally depends on Styles. When Styles get snarky on me, I know I’m stuck on the Bridge of Sighs between MS and Apple. I think, OK, I’ll jump off, and for the umpteenth time I waste hours investigate alternatives to Word. For me personally with my particular needs, it’s not worth switching. (That’s not a general statement and it probably doesn’t apply to you.) So I muddle on. The problems evaporate. Until next time.

In short, I have every sympathy for you if you attribute your own writer’s block to technology woes. They happen. They are very annoying. But I can’t help comparing myself with the legendary writers who write entire novels on a smartphone while commuting. And for the moment, no more whining, Madam.


The Bridge of Sighs, Venice. Photo by Max Piletski via Wikimedia

19 thoughts on “Writer’s block: technology woes

  1. I always used to say the computer only does what you tell it to do but, sadly, that doesn’t seem to be the case nowadays!! Software developers seem to rely on us to do their Beta testing for them.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Which is all very well if you’re getting paid for it!

  2. Dan Antion says:

    I’ve spent more years than I care to think about fixing technology woes and trying to get people to do the things that might prevent them. Unfortunately, computer technology is an inexact science, unless you (the developer) control the entire environment. In reality, it’s more like having multiple prescriptions – you can always expect some interaction and some side-effects. Sorry.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      I do understand — that’s an excellent analogy. And many a time I have had to tell a friend it’s time to say goodbye to her beloved but obsolete wordprocessing software… Or computer.

      1. Dan Antion says:

        It’s always a sad day.

  3. Elizabeth says:

    I had to explain to my husband that the warning “update now” meant what it said. He seemed to be taking it as a suggestion. I never did master Word. Then I switched to Apple and now I have not mastered Pages.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      I’m afraid I’ve got the giggles.

  4. mpardi2013 says:

    I use Open Office 4.1.5., a free program that has never given me a problem. My occasional block comes more from publishing a blog post, seeing it has been read in a dozen or more countries, and receiving only a few faithful comments. The block is within me. It says, Why bother?

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      That’s pretty frustrating, as your blog posts are long and thoughtful and meaningful. Comments from readers are tremendously rewarding. I have just asked my web designer for advice on how to extend my blog’s readership: I have much to learn.

  5. JT Twissel says:

    I thought it was just me! The trick is to limit any customization done to styles to the minimum. At least, that works for me.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Yes for sure. And starting with a simple template that needs no tinkering. (I think I’m winning at last.)

  6. Myra says:

    As a reader more than a writer Thankyou for persevering technological battles … we all so appreciate your artful work.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Myra, warm thanks for your encouragement:)

  7. anne leueen says:

    You have my sympathy. I use Word but I am not trying to write a book. In the past twelve months I have had both of my computers suffer complete crashes when a new Windows update came through. I have had to ‘ghost’ both of them and take them back to the factory defaults. Thank goodness I have my photos and documents backed up on an external drive. The second time it happened with my smaller laptop I got it back up and running and downloaded the programs like Lightroom and I did a complete system backup onto an external drive. Computers are great when they work and a real pain in the you know what when they don’t!!

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      We certainly have to keep on our toes. That was a bad 12months you have had!

  8. I learned about a program (very reasonably priced) called Scrivener by Literature and Latte, while learning to write a book proposal for my first book. It is available as either PC or Mac compatible. And I cannot imagine my life without it now!
    XO Donna

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Lucky you, Donna! Despite several efforts to like it, I found Scrivener didn’t suit me at all. It’s famous and inspires both love and hate, I think!

  9. franklparker says:

    Hi Rachel. This comment really relates to your post about how much to reveal – comments seem to be closed over there. It also realtes to your comment on my blog. You will have noticed that my “Monday Memories” are mostly about me and my career. Only occasionally to I mention the impact of my decisions on family members. This I believe is sub-concious self censorship. I am aware that it makes the writing seem dry. I hope though that it reminds older people – and reveals to the young – some of the social and economic changes we lived through.
    I don’t know about you, but I sometimes struggle with the realisation that my childhood was lived in a period of post-war austerity but no-one under 50 has any real understanding of what life was like in the “swinging sixties”. A middle aged person today, celebrating Father’s Day tomorrow, will tell his children about his childhood in the ’80s.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Hi Frank. I’m amazed to realize how alien our childhood worldwould seem to a young person. Your records are valuable! And I think (or hope) that as long as our personal censorship radar is operating, we can’t go too far wrong. I think I have comments turning off by default after three weeks. I’ll check.

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