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Less than Perfection

It never fails. I always have multiple IT problems affecting me simultaneously. Now here’s what I’m dealing with:

  • buying a new computer and monitor.
  • Dealing with a PHP incompatibility problem on my web host.
  • Trying a new database backup system. (Apparently the first time I tried, it was misconfigured, so it dragged all my sites down for almost an hour!
  • Doing research for a new wordpress site I’m about to build. Building this site — and getting it right will literally save me hours or weeks of time — and I have still not gotten around to starting.
  • Troubleshooting a user interface problem on my blog editor. (It’s kind of fixed). I need to upgrade this current blog as well.
  • dealing with the usual CSS and testing BS for ebooks.
  • Also on ebooks: Troubleshooting and reducing encoding errors, consistency of m dashes and n dashes and Microsoft’s smart quotes.
  • Figuring out why some multimedia projects are not working (this will have to wait until I buy the next computer).
  • Being called in by family members to solve their own technical problems (most of which involve iPhones, which I have never owned).

I’m a creative person. I’d prefer to be writing stories and working on new blogposts and essay topics. Instead I’m living in a state where things are always underperforming, messing up or being vulnerable to hackers. Every day I have to reassess my priorities: job search or fix the blog? Write this old client or do online research? Research new business opportunities or contact potential employers to pay bills in the meantime?

My current life problem is that I keep putting off creative projects in order to master the business of publishing and catch up on job search (and lose weight and start an exercise program, etc). During several periods of my life, I suffered through being unable to do any writing. While working abroad with Peace Corps, my word processor broke in the first month or two, and so I literally wrote nothing for 2 years. Between 1999-2003 I was caught up in trying to upgrade my technical skills (and going to grad school and trying to maintain an ill-fated long-distance relationship). Then between 2009-11 unemployment made it hard to concentrate on writing at all. Then in 2014-Spring 2016, I spent every waking moment preparing for my teacher’s certification, trying to prepare for class, trying to teach myself how to teach better– and then ultimately giving up when I couldn’t find a job. During 2017-2019, my writing productivity improved, but 2020-now I’ve done very little writing to speak of (though I have been very busy with publishing business stuff).

This is hard enough. When you throw technical problems on top of the heap and a little poverty, suddenly you feel perpetually stuck. Objectively, I know it shouldn’t paralyze me. You should slowly patiently prioritize and try to eliminate one obstacle at a time. On the other hand, it’s important to recognize sometimes that a problem won’t go away easily — that sometimes it is better to leave it alone or work around it or pay someone to handle it for you.

In the technical world it can be easy to get sidetracked by the tantalizing nature of a problem. A good example is with Windows issues. Sometimes the time it takes to figure out a Windows issue is greater than the time of wiping everything clean and starting over. I often solve many of the same problems over and over, but I do it so rarely that I often forgot how I did it last time. Better documentation might help, but not always. It still takes a lot of time to reacquaint yourself with old problems.

As I come closer to being an ancient geek, I see the value in just paying somebody to do it or just figuring out that I don’t need to do X after all. Sure, if you can fix your own computer, you save a little bit of money. On the other hand a competent amateur can miss out on many new opportunities when most of their time is consumed by learning how to do a repair on their car and trying to devise a Visual Basic solution to your Windows problem.

After a while, the average geek like me develops a tolerance for (and even a blindness to) being perpetually behind, putting things off as much as possible and learning to live with less than perfection.

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