Being a Better Writer: The Importance of a Support Group

Hello readers, new and old! Welcome back to another (or perhaps your first) Monday installment of Being a Better Writer! For those of you that are new (and quite possibly discovered the site from your attendance of Life, The Universe, and Everything this weekend), BaBW is a regularly-occurring Monday article discussing all things writing, one topic at a time. Over the years, it has discussed hundreds of different topics, such Sanderson’s Three Laws of Magic, The Five-Man Band, Subverting Tropes, and even The Art of Misdirection, to name a few. Such has been the series’ popularity that if you’ve just discovered Unusual Things for the first time, it’s highly likely that you’ve still seen a snippet of it somewhere, from Wikipedia to Google search summaries on various topics.

Basically, if you’ve just arrived and are looking for writing advice, rejoice. There’s hundreds upon hundreds of articles here, all searchable, categorized, and even tagged. If you want writing articles on everything from brainstorming to formatting, you’re in the right place.

So welcome! To those of you returning readers, I hope you had a chance to attend the aforementioned LTUE convention this weekend. As usual, my daily write-ups are up and on the site, so if you missed the con (sadness, especially as this year it was online due to Covid-19, and easier to attend than ever), you can still catch a summary of just some of the panels that occurred.

And with that, there’s no other news to discuss today. So let’s dive right into our topic. Which is going to be a bit less of a common one. In fact, I was actually planning on writing about another topic until more than a few of those LTUE panels mentioned this one, and I decided it deserved its own place on BaBW.

Which makes today’s topic a slightly rarer one. Usually for BaBW the topics are the nuts, bolts, and washers of fiction. How to sell emotion, or how to make sure that your conflict is gripping readers. The stuff people think about when they think about writing.

But every so often BaBW takes a step back and tackles another aspect of writing that sometimes isn’t given nearly enough credit in the writing process: The health of the writer. The importance of keeping the primary and secondary writing machine—your brain and your body, not your keyboard and your word processor—in good shape so that you can continue to produce those stories that you love so much.

So today, readers, we’re going to talk about the importance of a support group.

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Being a Better Writer: Handling Stress

Welcome back readers! To the first Being a Better Writer post of 2021! Which … almost didn’t happen today. And not just because of the computer (which I’ll update you all on in a moment). No, because of the other event that happened last Wednesday in the US. You know, the big one where a bunch of rioters stormed the US capital in an attempt to forcefully change the election results.

Yeah. That one. There will be a post about that. But just in case any of you were wondering, I’m firmly among the opposition to what those people did. It was outright rebellion. And I would have said something on it immediately, save that my computer was down, and incapable of making a post of the length this topic deserved. I almost wanted to push Being a Better Writer back a week and use today to talk about it, but … One way you beat individuals like that is by proving that they ended up having less of an impact than they wanted. So I’ll talk about them later this week (assuming my computer holds up), but for today? BaBW is still on!

Now, about that computer. Yes, I’m at my keyboard again. And while it’s not 100%, it’s functional enough for me to finish the print requirements for Axtara – Banking and Finance.

So what happened? Well, it was a two-fold strike. The first hit was that … Well, let me explain the parts first. For those of you not in the know, everything on a computer goes through a central processing unit, or CPU. It’s like the engine of a car, only more so. You can’t push a computer along if a CPU goes out. CPU’s generate a lot of heat in operation, so there is a cooling apparatus set on top of them, and a thermal paste between the two that helps conduct the heat into the cooling system.

Well, problem #1 was that my thermal paste had largely dried out over the last few years of living in a desert. And as a result, it wasn’t transmitting heat evenly or well. So when the computer went under a sudden load, such as with a hefty game … the CPU could trip the warning heat sensors and the computer would shut down out of safety (don’t want a valuable CPU melting, which will happen otherwise). Until the heat cooled, it wouldn’t restart.

So that was problem #1. Cleaning off the old concrete-like dried thermal paste and replacing it with new, fresh stuff fixed that problem. A complete diagnostic scan of the CPU showed that no damage had been done, thankfully (yay safeguards). But then there was issue #2, and the other problem: my secondary hard drive was failing.

Explanation: Computers can have a number of internal drives to store information and move it around. I have three. My primary, and boot drive, only for windows. A secondary that was cannibalized from older builds that held my music and various things, and a third that is much larger I acquired a few years ago.

That second drive? Around 15 years old. Most drives last 5-10. And Windows was using it as a page file (basically spare ram), meaning any time there was a lot of data being moved around, Windows would read and write on the drive. Plus, my listening to music … the drive was wearing out and going bad. And SATA (the tech used to access the drive) panics when it encounters bad sectors.

Basically? The moment a bad sector came along with the computer accessing that drive, down the system went down hard.

So is it fixed? Well … mostly. As I have another drive, I can rip the old one out. However, Windows may have put some vital files on there, so doing so may cause me to need to repair my copy of Windows, which is always dicey. So before that happens, I’m going to get the print copy of Axtara proofed since right now I can do that. In the meantime (and how I’ve avoided the problem), I had Windows do a checkdisk on the bad drive, and it’s identified the currently bad sectors and won’t touch them. Won’t stop new ones from occurring, but I’ve also moved everything that was using that drive off of it and onto the other larger one. For now, this will have to do, and I won’t be letting this computer do any heavy lifting until I get that drive removed and things smoothed out (no gaming on this PC for a while, which is killer).

So, that’s where things stand right now. I’d like to replace the dead drive with an equal sized SSD, but that’s not explicitly needed and budget right now is tight, as one might guess. But the computer is up and running, and I checked to make sure that everything was backed up (and nothing book-related was on the old drive anyway, just so you know).

All right, so that’s the news. Today, once this is done, I’ll be sizing the cover for the print proof of Axtara. Exciting stuff!

Anyway, with that all said … let’s talk about today’s topic, shall we? Which I felt was extremely topical given the last week. I’ll start with a question: any of you want to guess how much sleep I lost last week trying to figure out the source of my computer problems so I could get back to work?

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