A bit of a stressful week this time, with buying a new laptop proving frustrating, and my issues with funding my university course still unresolved. Despite those major irritations, I have rediscovered my writing fire, while still finding time to enjoy things in life.
It’s been a bit of a stressful week since the last time I wrote. My primary issue was that my laptop has been on the blink for a long time, well over a year. The big issue was the screen, which would flicker white and render the screen unusable. The only fix was to tilt the screen quite far back and work with it on an unusual angle, because I have no knowledge of how to fix these things, nor can I afford to be without a laptop as it gets fixed. I don’t know if the screen was broken or if it was just a loose wire or something. Maybe I could’ve fixed it myself, maybe it would’ve been an in-and-out job at the repair shop. Either way, I decided that, after seven years, it was time to buy myself a new laptop.
The first laptop I owned, I just went into PC World and asked the assistant, and it worked fine for long enough. The second one was much the same, and my most recent one, I just went on the Argos website and bought whichever black laptop had the most storage. This time, I wanted to put some proper effort in, and endeavoured to research what I was buying properly. Jesus, laptop-hunting doesn’t half melt your brain. Three days I spent scouring search engines, looking for the perfect laptop for what would fit my budget. My friend suggested getting a refurbished laptop, saying that it would be almost as good as new, but I’d be able to have a much more powerful machine. I had a deep look into this, as it seemed a grand solution, but ultimately I wanted something new, I wanted something mine.
While owning something new was fine, it did limit my options. On the advice of my friend, I wanted SSD (solid state drive) storage. For those of you, like myself, who didn’t know, this is a much faster storage system than eMMC or HDD, where you can get more storage for the price but your laptop runs much slower. This was a mistake I’d made with my previous laptop, which had 1TB of storage but was HDD, and therefore infuriatingly slow as the years went on. This time, it had to be SSD, which pushed more laptops out of my reach.
What I wanted more than anything, though, was something that had a good keyboard, and would last. With two young ‘uns running around the house, durability was important to me, which brought Lenovo to my attention. Their Thinkpad is the most durable laptop available (from what I gather) and is the only laptop that has been used in space. However, a decent new one was well out of my range, which sent me back to the refurbished laptop market. It looked very promising, with lots of storage and RAM available within my price range, but I just couldn’t shake my fears of refurbished laptops out of my head, of it falling to pieces after a few weeks, or of it being scratched and looking used and therefore not mine, so after two days, I ruled them out completely and resolved only to look for new laptops.
After a third day of research, I still couldn’t settle on anything. Honest to god, searching for computer advice online is a nightmare. Most of it is written by computer experts who need much stronger computers than what I do, so everything I looked at reviews for said it was crap. Everything was too weak, too slow, the screens weren’t colourful enough, the sound quality wasn’t cinematic enough; all the focus was on how every laptop I liked the look of wasn’t good enough. I’m someone that knows a little bit about computers and it was bending my head, so I can only imagine how daunting it must be for the average person to research. It got to the point where I thought I’d just struggle on with my ready-to-die old laptop, because all I could see were the flaws. A few hours later, I shook that thought. Every laptop was a compromise, especially in my price bracket, but whatever laptop I bought would be better than the one I had, one that could break completely at any time.
I needed to make it easier for myself, so I Googled ‘best laptops for writers’ and found a decent article, which said a MacBook Air was the best, with the Asus Zenbook and Lenovo Ideapad also both excellent. I couldn’t afford a MacBook Air, nor do I really want an Apple computer, because the idea of them always seems so limiting. I looked up the Zenbook and the Ideapad on PC World’s website, thinking my Mam could pick one up for me when she finished work (I wouldn’t be able to get to PC World by myself) and drop it off. I looked at the Zenbook, which looked fine, but the trackpad looked hideous. I looked at the Ideapad, which looked great, but the only one available was thirty miles in the wrong direction, and I’d talked myself out of getting one delivered anyway. I also looked at the Dell Inspiron, based on what my friend had recommended, and that looked decent, too. I would’ve been happy with that but, having read so much about the quality of Lenovo’s keyboards, I really wanted the Ideapad, and it was so frustrating it wasn’t able to pick up because, by this point, I wanted it today.
Just on the off-chance, I checked the Argos website. I couldn’t believe what I saw. There it was, the Ideapad. Not just the Ideapad, but an Ideapad with twice as much SSD storage as any other laptop I’d seen in my price bracket. Not only that, it was available in my hometown, just five minutes’ walk away. The only issue with it was it was silver, not black, but after the way overhauling my website made me feel, I figured why not do the same with my laptop? So, after discussing such a large expense with my partner (who told me to get it before I’d even finished asking), and finally finding a review that seemed relevant, I went and bought it. It’s only been two days so far, but I love it. It feels lightning-quick, the keyboard is wonderful, the screen is grand, the speakers are fine, it’s pretty much the perfect laptop for my needs. A wonderful happy ending, to what had been a pesky few days.
If you’re a writer, or you do any sort of frequent typing on a laptop, I can highly recommend the Lenovo Ideapad 3i. It’s a wonderful machine, and it was worth the effort to find. That being said, it’s not lost on me that, despite all my research, all my stressing, all my pondering and all my deliberating, I’ve still somehow ended up with the best laptop I could afford from Argos!
Another major stressor this week has been the Student Finance situation, which I discussed in Chapter One. The ‘urgent request’ didn’t seem to make much difference, with it still not having gone through, so as it stands I’m still not registered on my module. Making it worse, I realised today that they wanted me to upload a passport photo, despite them already having my passport information. Why they couldn’t have mentioned this in one of the many phone calls I’ve spent hours making to them over the last few months, I don’t know. If they had, I’d still be on my course right now; as it is, they received the photo today, and I’m left hoping it goes through in time for me to continue my studies. After smashing my first assignment with a score of 90, I’d hate to lose that through having to restart the module in October. Later on today, the notification changed from ‘Application Submitted’ to ‘Payments Scheduled,’ so hopefully that should be sorted within a few days, though the Open University said that nothing had changed from what they could see. The big problem is, if it takes six weeks (which the Student Finance website says it might), that takes me past the deadline for my next assignment and right up to the deadline for the one after that. Now, while I may be able to scrape something together from my notes (I can’t access the online learning, so I literally only have what I could copy-paste before my registration was revoked), the standard will be lower. I’m also really struggling to motivate myself to even try, given that I might not have my registration restored anyway. What a palaver.
Part of me is thinking it might be best if they told me it was best to restart the module in October, not only because of the lack of time I’m going to have on this next assignment (if I can even submit it) but because I’ve well and truly got the writing bug again. This will be my fifth blog in twelve days, my website redesign and the launching of these journals inspiring me to write much more. Not only that, but I have, for the first time in a good six months, managed to write something new for the book I’m working on, and in the process found a style and structure that will guide the whole story, not just the self-contained stories I was trying to string together with an overarching theme. It will involve rewriting the 46,000 words I’ve already written, and probably cutting thousands of them out, but now I have what I need to turn an idea into a finished work. I’ve re-found my fire this last fortnight, I’ve written about 14,000 words, and it makes me feel so happy. The combination of a new blog, a new website and a new laptop, mixed with the new ideas and words for my book, have combined to reawaken the writing beast within, and not before time. So, if I did get told to come back in October for my studies, it might actually be better for me. It’s not up to me, though; I will not quit this course, I will not defer this course, I will keep going until I either end up with a degree or I’m told not to bother. The degree would only be the secondary accomplishment; the real success would be starting something very difficult, persisting with it for six years no matter how stressed I get or want to stop, and not giving up. I’m a man that’s given up on too much in life, a man that’s got going too often when the going got tough. For me to be a different man, a better man, I have to do different things; that means not giving up, but instead finding a way to move forward as best I can. Whatever happens, I will make the best of it, and turn it to my advantage somehow.
A lot of rambling about (probably) quite boring stuff in this chapter, so I’ll end with a few things I’ve enjoyed this week. I’ve gotten more into Call the Midwife, which my partner watches in the background while I write. It really is a wonderful programme, and I may even watch it from the start once she’s finished her box-set. She’s on the last disc, so that isn’t far off. I’m continuing to enjoy reading Unfollow by Megan Phelps-Roper, which is a story of one of the most bizarre upbringings you’ll ever read. I should’ve had it finished by now, but I’m enjoying writing so much that I haven’t been reading enough. I really enjoyed the continuation of the story of Kenny Omega and the Good Brothers across AEW Dynamite and Impact: Hard to Kill; the Bullet Club reunion, the impact it is having across two companies and the constant teases of a NJPW partnership have made this the most must-see story in television for me, and I can’t wait to see where it goes. I was also thoroughly impressed by the wrestler Moose from the Hard to Kill match; I’d never seen him before, and seeing a six-foot-six man perform a Spanish Fly (basically a backflip Rock Bottom) from the top rope was unreal. He has real potential, and I hope he faces Kenny Omega one-on-one at some point in the story, so I can see if he really has what it takes. I think the think I’ve most enjoyed, though, is being able to watch YouTube on my laptop again. My old laptop, among all the other problems it had, used to crash whenever I played a YouTube video, making the site unwatchable. Today, I’ve enjoyed going through Sean Townsend’s channel and listening to his piano versions of Killswitch Engage songs, which are truly wonderful. Maybe it’s a sign I’m getting old, but I’m right into piano and orchestral music at the minute, and I think it’s perfect to have on in the background when writing. Finding someone who combines the brilliance of Killswitch Engage with the beauty of the piano to such good effect has been fantastic, and I strongly recommend them.
I think that’s enough for this instalment. Hopefully the next one will be a bit more interesting! I really need to take notes as I think of things to write about, I had loads of great ideas and then forgot them all by the time it came to type. Ah well, you live and learn. I hope you’re well, and you have a great week.
Stay safe and take care,
Song of the Chapter:
The End of Heartache (Killswitch Engage piano cover)
by Sean Townsend
Quote of the Chapter:
“The most important is that the writer’s original perception of a character or characters may be as erroneous as the reader’s. Running a close second was the realization that stopping a piece of work just because it’s hard, either emotionally or imaginatively, is a bad idea. Sometimes you have to go on when you don’t feel like it, and sometimes you’re doing good work when it feels like all you’re managing is to shovel shit from a sitting position.”
Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft